Friday, March 13, 2020

Ethical Divorce Made Simple – CATWOE Model


During my professional career – I implemented many management techniques at work.

I tried my best to use the same management techniques in my personal life too.

For example – I successfully used Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) to quit smoking.

I used a Project Management Technique called “Force Field Analysis” to quit drinking – and to ensure I didn’t start smoking again.

And – I have extensively used the Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) “CATWOE” Model to help me understand and resolve many ethical dilemmas that I faced from time to time.

Dear Reader – let me explain the CATWOE Model in brief.


The CATWOE model adapted from Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) is a useful decision-making technique in ethical situations which helps resolve ethical dilemma and helps you take an “ethical” decision.

Ethical dilemma occurs due to mismatch in ethical perspectives of various stakeholders involved in the ethical situation.

Every person (or entity) that is likely to be affected by your decision is a “stakeholder” with a moral claim on you (the decision-maker).

Sometimes – when you take a decision in a hurry – you don’t even realise how many “stakeholders” exist – who are going to be affected by your decision.

A CATWOE analysis will help you identify all stakeholders involved in a decision and analyse their respective ethical perspectives.

CATWOE is an acronym to categorize various stakeholders:








To elaborate a bit:

C:   The customers” of the decision. In this context – ‘customers’ means those who are on the receiving end of your decision. Is it clear from your definition of “C” – as to who primarily will gain or lose from your decision…?

A:   The actors – meaning those who would actually carry out the activities envisaged in the implementation of the decision.

T:   The transformation process. What does the system do to the inputs in order to convert them into the outputs…?

WWeltanschauung – The World View” pertaining to the Ethical Situation.

O:   The owner(s) – those who have sufficient formal power to stop the decision.

E:   The environmental constraints – in which the decision is being taken.

DIVORCE – an Ethical Situation  

Any time one human being intervenes in the life of another human being directly or indirectly – an ethical situation arises.

Ethical Situations are frequently charged with emotions.

When you divorce your spouse – you “intervene” in the life your spouse – so – divorce is an “ethical situation”.

In fact – in addition to your spouse – many others are also affected by your divorce – yes – there are many “stakeholders” that may be affected by your decision to divorce your spouse.

Let us try to identify and categorize the “stakeholders” affected by a divorce.

(Dear Reader – let me add a disclaimer that I don’t have any first-hand experience of divorce – so – this is “hypothetical” – an “illustrative example” – to demonstrate how to use the CATWOE model in reaching an “ethical” decision – after considering the perspectives of various of stakeholders. Also – the “stakeholders” – and their perspectives may vary in different situations)

CATWOE – The Dramatis Personae in a Divorce and their Ethical Perspectives


The main “customers” in a divorce are the husband and wife who want to divorce.

Are both on the same page as far the decision to divorce is concerned…?

(This may be the case in amicable divorce with mutual consent)

Or – do they have differing perspectives…?

(In which case the divorce may be contested entailing acrimonious litigation involving nasty court battles)

Are there any other “customers” who are affected by the divorce – like children, parents, relatives etc…?

Or maybe – are there any lover(s) of the husband/wife – who are interested in the divorce – since the lover(s) want to marry the husband/wife after they get divorced…?

What are the perspectives of these “customers”…?

Do the children want their parents to divorce – or – are they opposed to it…?

What about the parents of the husband and wife – and their relatives and friends…?

What are their perspectives in this divorce situation…?

In this divorce situation – you may be either the husband – or you may be the wife – but – before you make your decision – you must introspect with vicarious empathy – and try to envisage, comprehend and appreciate the perspectives of all “customers” – both “primary” (you and your spouse) – and “secondary” (children, parents, relatives, friends, lovers etc.)

Perspectives may differ among “customers” – primary and secondary.

For example – a husband may want a divorce – but the wife may not want a divorce – and – vice versa.

Even among children, parents, relatives etc. – there may be various perspectives.

You may introspect and evaluate various perspectives – and assess whether they are “justified” or not.

As far as the main “customers” (husband/wife) are concerned – there are two types of divorce:

1. “Pull” Divorce – your attraction for someone else is the reason for you wanting to divorce your spouse – in order to enable you to marry/cohabit with your “lover”.

2. “Push” Divorce – some internal issues are “pushing” you out of your marriage – incompatibility issues, infidelity/cruelty/insanity/impotence/alcoholism of spouse etc. – which are causing irretrievable breakdown of your marital relationship – and “pushing” you out of marriage.

Is your divorce – a “pull’ divorce – or – a “push” divorce…?

Are you being “pulled” out of your marriage…?

Or – are you being “pushed” out of your marriage…?

Think about it – do you really want to breakup your marriage…? 

Think about all the other “customers” and their perspectives – before you take a decision.

In one case of “amicable” divorce by mutual consent – the divorcing parents did not anticipate the extent to which their teenage daughter would get upset by their divorce – the daughter became rebellious and wayward and took to drugs and was psychologically scarred for life.

In another case – the mother (of the divorced wife) went on a guilt trip and blamed herself for the divorce of her daughter thinking that she hadn’t brought up her daughter well.

Where the marriage is an arranged one – the parents of the divorced couple may get upset.

Remember – there are a lot of “customers” who will be affected by your decision to divorce – and – there may be a lot of “collateral damage” because of your divorce.

So – you must take a soft holistic “systemic” view – before you take a final decision.


Actors include all the persons/agencies involved in the divorce process – counsellors, lawyers, family courts etc.

They too have their own perspectives.

For Example – a marriage counsellor may try to “save” the marriage.

Divorce Lawyers will try to “win” the case and get the best “deal and maximum “benefits” for their “client”.

The Family Court will have a “legal” perspective.


This is the process which “transforms” a marriage into a divorce – the lawful procedure to split the legal bond between husband and wife.

Different countries and different religions may have different divorce procedures.

You have to consider the perspectives of the “transformation process” – under which law were you married – on what grounds are you seeking divorce – various aspects like alimony/maintenance, property distribution, children’s custody etc.


Weltanschauung (World View) on Divorce will vary depending on the prevailing culture of the society to which you belong or the place you live in.

In “modern” societies – divorce is easily acceptable – and indeed – a part of life.

In “conservative” societies – divorce may carry a “stigma” – not only for the divorcees – but for their children, parents and siblings/relatives of the divorcees as well. 

In “dogmatic” societies – perspectives may be even more rigid, harsh and unsympathetic – maybe gender-biased too – and divorcees may even be “ostracized”.

Before you take a decision to divorce – you must consider the Weltanschauung (World View) on how divorce is perceived in your society – and introspect on the likely social ramifications of divorce – and – once you take a decision to divorce – you must be prepared for the repercussions.

(As an aside – you may be surprised to know this – but – many years ago – in the “cantonment culture” of the military – divorce was frowned upon. Maybe – this was due to the vestiges of the “Victorian” culture of the colonial days of the British Raj…)


The “owner” is the entity who has the formal power to stop the divorce.

This depends on place to place.

Can courts stop a divorce…?

In ethnic societies – can community leaders stop a divorce…?

In some countries – can religious authorities stop a divorce…?

Well – I request experts to please throw some light on this aspect – about – who has the formal power/authority to stop a divorce.


Do you live in a modern urban metropolis or cosmopolitan city…?

Or – do you live in the “mofussil” – in a rural town or village…? 

Do you live in a Joint Family…?

Or – are you a Nuclear Family living all by yourself…?

Are you financially independent…?

Is your environment safe for a divorced “single” person…?  

Which country do you live in…?

Well – though Environment is linked to Weltanschauung (World View) – there is a slight difference.

Weltanschauung (World View) is connected with “culture” – whereas – Environmental Constraints encompass other “administrative” aspects and support systems for day-to-day “ease of living” - especially for divorcees and single parent families.


Once you have identified and categorized all “stakeholders” affected by your decision to divorce – and analyzed their perspectives – you will now be better equipped to take an ethical and informed decision to divorce or not to divorce. 

Dear Reader – I would love to hear your views and feedback. Please comment here or on Social Media (Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn) 

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