Abstract: Should I Try to Work It Out? A Guidebook for the Crossroads of Divorce

Updated: Mar 29

The following is an abstract of: Should I Try to Work It Out? A Guidebook for Individuals and Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce.

When an unhappy person consults a lawyer considering divorce, they may not be sure of the course of action they truly want to take. They teeter on a precipice of a challenging decision that will not only change their lives, but also that of their spouse and children.

Should I Try to Work It Out? A Guidebook for Individuals and Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce was written by leading social science researchers who believe people unhappy in their marriage deserve factual, research-based information about the logistics of divorce and its potential emotional and financial consequences for their family members.

The book was birthed out of curriculum taught by Dr. Alan Hawkins* in an education class for divorcing parents required by the state of Utah. Its balanced approach understands that many couples are in a very difficult place. The guidebook serves as a resource for someone considering divorce, or whose spouse is.

To quote a participant: “I truly think that people start the process (of divorce), but they don’t know what the ramifications are, but once they find out what the ramifications are, they are in it so far that they don’t want to go backwards.”

Dr. Hawkins encourages readers to make a “careful consideration of whether divorce is the right thing to do and make that decision based on the best information possible.”

Crossroads of Divorce contains content from hundreds of scientific studies that address issues like happiness/unhappiness in marriage and divorce; possible consequences for children, adults and finances; legal options and what to expect from the process. Lest anyone believe a divorce is going to be a quick fix for their problems, the book warns: “For most people, the legal process of divorce is an emotionally and financially draining process. When children are involved, parents need to try to be their best selves for the benefit of the children, despite the stresses and challenges.”

The guidebook is sprinkled with first-hand anecdotes from individuals and couples both who chose divorce and who decided to reconcile.

“The truth of the matter is that a good marriage and a good divorce are similar in that they both require those involved to be kind and considerate to each other. Both take hard work and require each partner to bring his or her best self to the process. When the hard work is done right, the investment pays off.”

Each of its seven chapters unpacks a pertinent topic in simple language, then provides written exercises to help the reader gauge their interest and ability to act in either direction. It also offers extensive referral recommendations, whether for finding marriage resources, relationship education or marriage therapy, an attorney, help parenting or other family/social information.

The legal options section begins with sage advice from domestic attorney and mediator Tamara Fackrell,* one of the book’s co-authors. “Do not file for divorce in haste. Explore all options and make a conscientious decision, contemplating the short-term and long-term consequences.”

Key Takeaways:

* Acknowledges the potential for reconciliation and its benefit for many.

* Casts vision that unhappy marriages can and often do return to happiness.

* Describes types of effective counseling and marriage resources, including Discernment Counseling.

* Recommends that most low-conflict couples would benefit from working to improve their marriage – for many reasons, but especially the wellbeing of the children.

* Understands that divorce is usually the best options for those in high conflict marriages, especially those involving abuse. Especially helpful: a definition of relational violence that differentiates between “situational couple violence” and “intimate partner terrorism.”

* Details emotional and financial realities for all parties.

* Explains a variety of legal pathways to divorce, including litigation, mediation and collaborative process.

Dr. Hawkins suggests people are often unsure about the decisions they make, with a “great deal of divorce ambivalence among those filing.” He believes couples at the crossroads will make better decisions if time and information are provided to allow them to think from a more rational state of mind.

“The decision to divorce is probably one of the most difficult they’ll have to make,” he said. “You need to take the time to think through to make sure this is the best decision for you and your family.”

To download the guidebook for free, please visit:


About the Authors:

Dr. Alan J. Hawkins, Ph.D., has been a member of the faculty in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University since 1990. He is the former chair of the Utah Marriage Commission. He also serves on the Research Advisory Group for the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. He helps teach the required divorce orientation education class for divorcing parents in Utah. He has published dozens of scholarly articles and several books on marriage, divorce, and fathering.

Dr. Tamara A. Fackrell, J.D., Ph.D., is an Attorney Mediator in Utah. She has had a private mediation practice focusing on divorce and domestic mediation since 1997 and a private law practice since 1998 focusing on family law. She earned her Ph.D. in Marriage, Family, andHuman Development from Brigham Young University in 2012. Previously, she graduated cum laude from the BYU Law School. Dr.

Fackrell is a Master Mediator and Primary Trainer for the State of Utah and performs certifications in mediation and divorce mediation for professionals.

Dr. Steven M. Harris, Ph.D., LMFT, is a Professor and Director of the Couple and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota. He also serves as the Associate Director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project. He has served as both a member and the Chair of the Texas Healthy Marriage Initiative’s Research Advisory Group and is currently an active member of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative’s Research Advisory Group. He publishes and presents regularly on topics related to the practice of marital therapy and discernment counseling.

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