Cultivating Forgiveness: Reducing Hostility and Conflict After Divorce

52 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2007


In recent years, scholars writing in the emerging law and emotion field have explored the role of emotions on criminal, administrative, securities, torts, employment, and constitutional law. Yet, surprisingly few scholars have examined their role in family law. Examining the role of emotion in family law is particularly important because the potential for harm resulting from negative emotions such as persistent anger and the desire for vengeance may be greater in the family law context. A divorced parent's anger towards the other parent can lead to excessive conflict for years after the legal relationship has ended, harming both parents and their children. The law and emotion literature has focused on negative emotions, such as anger, disgust, and vengefulness. However, to the extent that society would benefit from both a reduction in negative emotions and an increase in positive emotions, such as love, hope, and forgiveness, it is worthwhile to explore the law's ability to facilitate both. This Article explores the law's ability to cultivate forgiveness between divorcing parents.

Although legal scholars have not examined forgiveness in any depth, scholars in other fields have conducted numerous studies demonstrating its benefits, including a reduction in anger. Drawing from various forgiveness models, Professor Maldonado analyzes why and how the law should cultivate forgiveness between divorcing parents: first, by making marital misconduct irrelevant in divorce, property, alimony, and custody proceedings; and second, by requiring that high-conflict divorced parents participate in a forgiveness education program. She argues that these reforms, which she has named Healing Divorce, may significantly reduce inter-parental hostility and conflict. Demonstrating that lawmakers have already attempted to facilitate forgiveness in the criminal law context, she argues that the law can and should cultivate forgiveness after divorce.

Keywords: inter-parental conflict, child custody, divorce, law and emotion, forgiveness, anger, vengeance, mediation

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Maldonado, Solangel, Cultivating Forgiveness: Reducing Hostility and Conflict After Divorce. Wake Forest Law Review, 2008, Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 1028687, Available at SSRN:

Solangel Maldonado (Contact Author)

Seton Hall Law School ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States
973-642-8830 (Phone)
973-642-8194 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics