Divorce should not be harder to obtain, especially for those who are in danger of physical harm due to domestic abuse. The decision to divorce should not be taken lightly though.
I received a tweet recently from a fellow relationship coach who believes the easier it is to get a divorce, the better. This particular coach has issues with me and her belief that I am of the opinion that divorce should be made “harder.”
The word harder is one she has assigned to my opinion that those wanting a divorce should stop and do serious thinking before filing for a divorce. I suppose, in her case at least, thinking before leaping makes the decision to divorce harder. In my opinion, that is just the common sense thing to do when making a life-altering decision. I don’t believe divorce should be “harder” to get. I do, however, believe that as a society we’ve almost made marriage and commitment obsolete by relaxed no-fault divorce laws. And, that can’t be a good thing.
I came upon an article recently about the gubernatorial race in Virginia between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe. The race is of no consequence when it comes to this article. Something in the article jumped out at me though and reflects society’s skewed notion of divorce and no-fault divorce laws. It is these skewed notions that hold so many hostage to No-fault divorce laws and the desire of one party to a marriage to leave the marriage.
According to Bustle.com writer, Samantha Jaffe, “Doing away with no-fault divorce would chip away at decades of precedent allowing men and women the autonomy to decide when a marriage isn’t working without having to rely on court-determined definitions. No-fault divorce laws are what allow individuals trapped in bad marriages to get out without a lengthy and costly legal battle. These laws keep decision-making power in the hands of the couple in question, not in the hands of a judge or jury. They keep costs down for marital courts.”
I’m not in favor of doing away with no-fault divorce laws but I do have to question Ms. Jaffe’s assertion that a man or woman can make an autonomous decision and, at the same time keep the decision-making process in the “hands of the couple.” The vast majority of divorces are autonomous, a decision made by one member of the couple. A very small percentage of couples sit down together and decide to divorce. There is no decision-making by the couple, not before the divorce is filed and especially not after.
Ms. Jaffe is an example of those who push for quick and easy divorce without knowing the realities of divorce. The reality of no-fault divorce law is, it only takes one person to decide whether a marriage and in most cases a family stays intact. I have no issue with that, my issue is with the speed at which the law allows one person to make a decision that will have major consequences for more than that person. There are no waiting periods, there is no education or therapy required before divorcing, it’s as easy as hiring an attorney, filing the paperwork and waiting for a mediation or hearing date.
To heck with what one person’s desire for a divorce means for the person or family left behind. No thought to the possible regrets and ramifications to the person who hastily decides a divorce is their only option. On the Holmes and Rahe, Stress Scale divorce is number two, right after death. It’s ranked the second most stressful event in life but for some reason, most people feel it should be quick and easy. Get it done, get over it and get on with your life.
Make it harder to divorce? No. Slow it down and put some thought into it, yes.
The Advantages of a Waiting Period:
No-fault divorce laws benefit one spouse and are detrimental to the other and the family in general. Yes, it is hard for a person to stay in an unhappy marriage but it is even harder to work one’s way through a difficult divorce. And, when you take into consideration that no-fault divorce is detrimental to one spouse it makes sense that most divorces are difficult. The spouse on the receiving end of an unwanted divorce is not going to be a happy camper.
A waiting period allows the spouse wanting the divorce to slow down, center themselves emotionally and put serious thought into whether it is a divorce they want or a resolution to marital problems. It also allows the spouse who is being left to come to terms with the divorce and become better prepared, emotionally for the process of divorce and it’s aftermath.
A report called Second Chances: A Proposal to Reduce Unnecessary Divorce published by the Institute for American Values states that it is not uncommon for those who have filed for a divorce to have doubts about the divorce. Where there is the slightest possibility of doubt or uncertainty a waiting period before the divorce is final is in everyone’s best interest.
Where children are involved, pre-divorce education can and has been shown to cut down on the negative impact of divorce. I’ve witnessed through my own work as a divorce coach the lack of concern parents have for their children during divorce. There is the belief that children are resilient, will bounce back and adjust. This frees parents up to disregard the effects of their divorce on their children and move full steam ahead in ways that are detrimental.
Most states require parenting classes for divorcing parents. These classes do little in the way of helping divorcing parents work through marital conflict that will carry over into the divorce. If relationship skills were low during the marriage, divorce is not going to alleviate that problem. It will only worsen the problem.
Except in the cases of domestic abuse, pre-divorce education should be required to help couples work through issues that could stall the divorce process or motivate one or the other spouse to use the Family Court system in an abusive manner. Divorce doesn’t put an end to marital problems it extends problems unless those problems are dealt with beforehand.
Cost of Divorce To “Marital Courts:”
Another misconception Ms. Jaffe has is about the cost-cutting effects of no-fault divorce laws. According to the Institute for American Values, the annual operating cost to the Family Court system is $19.3 billion. “Family courts are overwhelmed. Judges often have no particular expertise in dealing with domestic issues and often let the warring factions repeatedly go at each other in court. Hearings are held months apart, and many judges hope the frustrated couple ultimately get together long enough to reach their own settlement. In the meantime, the clock and the meter keep ticking says Diane Dimond, special correspondent for The Daily Beast.
The astronomical costs to the courts aside, let’s take a look at the cost of divorce on the taxpayer in general. A study conducted by Ben Scafidi, an economist at Georgia State University estimates the annual cost of family fragmentation and divorce to be $112 billion. That is some serious money! I can’t think of a better reason, one that touches all of us,m for those wanting a divorce to take time making the decision to divorce.
Divorce should not be harder to obtain, especially for those who are in danger of physical harm due to domestic abuse. The decision to divorce should not be taken lightly though. If requiring those with children to take some time out to consider the implications and repercussions of a divorce saves marriages and money how is it possible to have an issue with that?