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Divorce and disposable marriages

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Ever since the ‘60s, people haved suggested that marriage be temporary. Someone once even tried to promote a law that put renewal/expiration dates on all marriages. Of course, that hasn’t happened (yet), but no-fault divorce has brought it closer.

Divorce has been touted as the solution for a variety of problems, from genuine abuse to unhappiness. Some couples enter marriage now prepared for a split, with a pre-nup in place. Since these agreements tend to focus on property settlements, they don’t entirely address what happens in the break-up.

Even the many websites, self-help books and other resources devoted to divorce support have an odd, and totally mistaken presumption, that divorce will somehow improve the condition of life for those who have trouble in their marriages. There doesn’t seem to be anyone – not even those divorce lawyers who are being paid the big bucks to have the answers – that will admit to the reality of divorce and how it affects people.

I’ve heard so many times from people that if they’d known how bad things were going to be during and after a divorce, they would’ve done things differently — maybe it’s time for some honesty here. Here are some of the popular myths, debunked.

Divorce ends a relationship.

Only if there are no children and no property of significance does a divorce end the relationship. If you have children, custody issues can drag on for many years; same for women who want alimony or maintenance payments. So all it does is change the relationship to something eternally adversarial.

No-fault divorce makes the process blame-free.

Wrong again. For many people, embarking on a divorce begins a horrific journey of blame and shame. Only the dissolution of the marriage itself is no-fault. Other issues open a veritable Pandora’s box of charges and counter-charges, beginning the first day one spouse consults legal counsel.

A good lawyer will guide you through the process.

Unfortunately, the lawyer’s function is only to provide legal advice. He or she cannot provide you with any other information you may need, and may well have no interest in doing so. Consider this: many if not most divorce lawyers can’t even be honest about what they do, but call themselves “Family Law Attorneys” instead.

Children are adaptable, and quickly adjust to their new circumstances.

This was nonsense from the first time it was uttered – by somebody promoting an anti-marriage agenda back in the ‘60s. Studies are now showing the damage to children from even relatively amicable divorces is permanent and more extensive than was thought before. Use your common sense here: Will you and your ex go on with your lives as if nothing had changed? Of course you won’t, so how can you expect your kids to do that? What’s worse, in a divorce, the fate of your kids is now in the hands of strangers, and you may not have any control over what happens to them.

It won’t hurt anything if I “just say” my husband is abusive. That way I can get the kids and more money.

I know your lawyer won’t tell you this, because I’ve been contacted by people trying to get out of this lie, after their attorney advised them to use this tactic. If you claim domestic violence, several things can/will happen: your spouse could lose his job, be charged with a crime, and be sent to jail. You cannot take it back, and change your story later. There are “zero tolerance” policies in many workplaces, and no-drop laws in effect in many states. These laws and policies are designed to protect women from themselves, because women are thought to be too stupid to make their own decisions in this matter.

An initial lie in this instance could well take on a life of its own and cause problems you never imagined.

I can expect to live at the same standard I did before the divorce.

Again, common sense enters in. You won’t magically have more money, but there will be two households and two sets of bills. Fees for two lawyers, court costs, possibly court-ordered therapists, etc., are only a beginning to the monetary costs of a divorce. Do the math!

The late Ann Landers used to tell women contemplating divorce: “Ask yourself if you would be better off with him or without him?”  Once you step back and look at the big picture, and consider how bad, how nasty things could get, you might not be so quick to regard a divorce as a viable option.

Here are a few modern-day questions you could ask yourself:

“Am I prepared to escalate our disagreements into an all-out war, where nobody wins?”

“Can we afford to start paying double for everything with no increase in income?”

And here’s the biggie:

“Am I able to take full responsibility for how this works out, no matter what happens, even if it means my children will no longer trust me?”

Tough questions, I know, but a divorce in these days is tough. Better to take some time with hard questions now than wishing you’d taken a different path ten or 20 years down the road.


Trudy W. Schuett publishes the AZ Rural Times and New Perspectives on Partner Abuse . She is on Twitter http://twitter.com/trudywschuett and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/people/Trudy-W-Schuett/502077882

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