What Is an Unstable Emotional Household in a Divorce?

By Valerie Stevens

An emotionally unstable household during a divorce is one in which circumstances and moods are constantly changing. Family members, particularly children, do not know what to expect from day to day or moment to moment. The result is often fear and feelings of insecurity. According to Dr. Tracey Marks, an Atlanta psychiatrist and psychotherapist, research shows that lack of stability in the home, rather than the divorce itself, creates the most problems for adults and children.


An adult going through a divorce suffers through a range of emotions from sadness to betrayal. Even when a divorce is welcomed, the husband and wife are letting go of the dream they shared when they married. Sadness is a natural reaction to seeing the world around you dissolve. When couples go through the divorce process, they often become pitted against each other as they try to secure their separate financial futures. A woman might feel betrayed when a husband tries to claim a monetary interest in her business or seek alimony from her. A man might become angered by his wife’s claim to part of his inheritance. As adults work through these feelings, emotional volatility creates an atmosphere of uncertainly in the home.


A child going through a divorce often encounters feelings of fear, sadness, guilty, rejection and anger. The family, as the child knows it, is changing drastically. The child might experience loneliness when a parent leaves, as well as anger toward the parent for leaving. According to authors Elissa P. Benedek and Catherine F. Brown in "How To Help Your Child Overcome Your Divorce," children fear the unknown and will often prefer an unsafe home life to the collapse of their family. Even though abuse might have been a part of the child’s life, the uncertainty of the future creates emotional instability.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More


Maintaining a stable home environment during and after a divorce is one of the most important things a parents can do to promote emotional stability for children, according to Diane M. Berry, author of "Child-Friendly Divorce: A Divorced Therapist’s Guide to Helping Your Children Thrive!" Children need to know who is preparing their meals, who will pick them up from school or meet them at the bus. Visitation with the non-custodial parent is another area that needs to have structure. Children and adults need to know when they can expect to see each other after a separation.


A change in income can create emotional instability in the home when family members can no longer maintain the living standards to which they were accustomed. When children can no longer wear the designer clothes or participate in the extracurricular activities they once enjoyed, they often suffer feelings of inadequacy. In dire circumstances, coming home to a house where there is no electricity can be a real crisis for a child. Poverty creates emotional instability when the members of a household become uncertain of where they will live and how they will eat.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
The Effects of Divorce on Society


Related articles

Ideas for Sharing Custody

A shared parenting plan post-divorce or after parents break up might be the kindest gift they can give their children, according to “Parents” magazine. The custody laws in all states, which stress that children should have frequent and loving contact with both parents, are in line with this same principle. “Parents” magazine indicates that children who enjoy this contact after their parents part ways are better adjusted and have fewer socialization, school and behavioral problems. But shared custody requires the dedication of both parents to make it work.

What Are the Benefits of Legal Separation Vs. Divorce?

Legal separation and divorce are two options for married couples who wish to part ways. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 34 percent of marriage relationships ended in divorce as of 2011, making this an increasingly significant issue. Legal separation offers married couples with serious relationship issues an opportunity to separate, just as they would in a divorce, but without the legal finality provided by a divorce. This provides a number of benefits to spouses and families.

Shared vs. Residential Custody

In most states, two kinds of custody apply to all separating families: legal and physical. Legal custody refers only to major decision-making, and physical custody refers to the parent with whom a child lives. A parent with sole physical custody is sometimes referred to as the residential or custodial parent; this is the parent with residential custody. When a child lives a relatively equal amount of time in each parent’s home, this is referred to as shared custody, also often called joint custody.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Happens if Someone Quits Jobs in the Middle of a Divorce?

It's not an uncommon occurrence; faced with paying child support or alimony, a spouse might decide mid-divorce to earn ...

Tips for Winning a Child Custody Battle

When making a child custody determination, most jurisdictions make a decision based on the best interests of the child. ...

Can My Wife Get Custody of Our Kids If She Is Bipolar and We Get Divorced?

Bipolar disorder can be managed effectively with ongoing professional treatment. Thus, many women with this condition ...

Newborns During Divorce

Newborns aren’t immune to the effects of divorce, according to the University of Missouri. When their parents feel ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED