Should Laws Make It Harder To Get A Divorce?


Torn Wedding Picture

The question of whether or not to put legislation in place that limits a couple’s ability to get divorced is a hot topic that breeds strong opinions from both sides of the issue.

 

I recently read a blog debate in the New York Times between Vicki Larson, author of the OMG Chronicles blog, and Beverly Willet, co-chair of the Coalition For Divorce Reform organization on this very issue. While I agree hands-down with Ms. Willet’s assertation of the tragedy of divorce, I disagree with both of their answers to this problem.

 

First, let me state this article is less geared toward anyone who has been in an abusive relationship than it is toward those in non-abusive relationships. Abusive marriages are an entirely different issue than non-abusive marriages, and although the example of abuse is used rather gratuitously in Ms. Larson’s argument, I would like to focus more on the non-abusive marriages that teeter on the brink of divorce.

 

Next, allow me to explain why I disagree with their different resolutions to the problem.

 

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Niolon, PhD, the problems that lead to divorce are typically high conflict (financial lows, prolonged illness, disagreement on religious beliefs, etc.), loss of intimacy, and in my estimation derived through my own work, the inability of the spouses to struggle through tough times in an honest and charitable way.

 

But I believe those problems stem from deeper issues that begin with these factors:

 

  1. Only 60% of children of divorced parents marry, and 40% of them divorce (Dr. Judith Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce). Why? Because their model of marriage is distorted. They did not grow up instilled with a sense of permanency regarding the marriage relationship and they’re set up for failure. They start out with a faulty foundation. 
  2. Our society does not support virtuous relationships, therefore, the main message people receive via the media and people outside their family is they should be the center of their own universe, they should have whatever they want now, and if either of those ideas are compromised, they need to find someone or something else that will enable that lifestyle.
  3. Couples do not communicate well. They allow their pride to demand that the other spouse grovel at their feet with apologies and earn their way back into the offended spouse’s good graces until the ruffled feathers have relaxed and the vanity of the offended spouse has been soothed. This often results in severely diminished sexual intimacy.
  4. Couples do not forgive each other well. There may be some immediate forgiveness, but many spouses keep a mental checklist of what the other has or hasn’t done. This is not good for a marriage.

So, these are the primary factors, in my humble opinion, as to why couples divorce. They play out in different circumstances of course, but those are the four main reasons. If you give a couple enough years self-centeredness, bad communication, lack of sexual intimacy, and a lack of true forgiveness, there will come a day when one or both spouses will believe the relationship is beyond repair, even with counseling. The only hope, then, is a conversion of heart on the part of both spouses, and that is often hard to come by. By that time, at least one spouse has entertained thoughts of someone outside the marriage and may possibly have already been unfaithful.

 

It’s for those reasons that I stand firm in my stance that more stringent divorce laws are not the answer. The answer, plain and simple, is making sure couples are better prepared for marriage through pre-cana programs, healthy, intact family relationships, and a real understanding of what marriage is. To summarize, it should be harder to get married, not harder to get divorced.

 

There are some great Pre-cana programs out there, such as the Three To Get Married weekend program, which can be found in different locations throughout the country. This is a fairly thorough program that my husband and I went through ourselves, even though I had already been previously married. Most pre-cana programs are a great start to marriage, if they are taken seriously by the couple.

 

Society needs strong, loving, couples to raise solid, happy families. The best way to make this happen is to ensure you marry your best friend and a very important part of discerning who that is, will be through a solid and thorough preparation for marriage.

 

Would you like to disagree with me or bring your opinions to the table? Just email me at asklisa@catholicmatch.com and I’ll be happy to discuss them with you.






12 Comments

  1. Lois-765906 February 21, 2013 Reply

    Lisa,

    This is a very emotionally charged issue, one that has been debated for years and years.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly, that we should not make the divorce process more difficult, it should be the other way around, e.g., make the getting married process more rigorous.

    It just so happens I have substantial background in this area, so I feel able to address it in a more comprehensive manner. By way of background, I have served as a family law attorney for a very long time. My area of practice has been divorce, dissolution, family law and juvenile law. I have always told my clients that this particular area of law was the absolute LAST area of practice I wanted to work in. Nevertheless, it was God’s choice for me and tied to this is a long story that I shall not bore you with now.

    I am licensed to practice law in the State of Ohio and practiced family law right before our law was changed to allow for “no fault” divorce and it was the opinion of all (especially the judges that handled these cases) that when a couple ended up in divorce court, it was definitely the end of their marriage and to make the legal system more cumbersome would only cause more pain in the end. You see, as one judge told me: “My job is to examine the evidence to see if it meets the burden of proof required in order for me to grant the parties’ request as alleged in the complaint. It is difficult enough to conduct a trial where the parties are fighting over custody of children and division of assets. During the time before “no-fault” divorce, a judge was also required to see if a Plaintiff also met what is called a “burden of proof” concerning whether someone had been “extremely cruel” or “grossly neglecting their duty”. (There were other “grounds” for divorce in Ohio, like the Defendant being incarcerated in jail, etc.) The judge further said that when someone is testifying on the witness stand and they angrily go on and on about their spouse’s faults, that is not a good use of the Court’s time. No fault divorce would NOT stop someone from obtaining a divorce, nor does it make it “easy” to get out of a marriage. But “no fault” divorce is a much more humane treatment of a very terrible situation wherein the agony never truly ends no matter how initially glad you are to end the marriage (if you were the person initiating the action)..

    By the way, I was received into the Catholic Church shortly after I commenced the practice of family law and my parish priest blessed me over the fact that I viewed my work in this area as my ministry, an avenue to help the afflicted during their darkest hour. I have had many types of clients over the years and not one of them was ever hostile over the notion of me praying with them or for them as I served as their advocate. When I took time off to be a full-time mother, my clients said they were grateful to have a Christian lawyer because many other lawyers either didn’t care and just wanted to make money or were just plain evil. Now that I returned to practice, I find my clients are still grateful.

    It is a very difficult task, to go where angels fear to tread, but I know without a doubt that is my calling. So people really should not rush to judgment over the notion that divorce should not be “easy” because it never is.

    Lois

  2. Philip-97058 February 21, 2013 Reply

    More laws and legislation is not needed. The only ones happy about divorce are attorneys and associated other people involved in divorce. Young people need to be taught respect and have moral background in order to prevent this madness. The question should be: How do you prevent the moral decay that that is prevalent and celebrated in this country?
    The schools teach about sex, not morals. The media and entertainment fields feature and displays sex and perversion like never before. Family values are laughed at and degraded the same as religion.
    The question of marriage and/or divorce is not the beginning of a problem, it’s the end means of everything I listed. Many more items could be added on also.
    People need to change, not laws.

  3. Brian-278516 February 21, 2013 Reply

    My disagreement with Lisa is only that practically pre-cana is to late for most couples. It is the formation before you decided to marry someone that is lacking so that pre-cana can help reinforce the important points of marriage. Far to many Catholic couples are hearing of the concepts of marriage for the first time when they attend pre-cana/marriage prep classes. Their needs to be a greater emphasis on marriage from teen years all the way through adulthood. Assuming teens start dating between 16-18 years of age the time spent for most singles today “looking for their spouse” will be 10-13 years. For many others it will be much longer. That is a lot of time to grow in a deep understanding of marriage and be significantly prepared. I recently began writing about this via a post that you can read here. http://www.catholicmatch.com/blog/2013/02/bishops-plan-for-marriage-should-be-applied-before-i-do/ Otherwise I think Lisa is right on the money!

  4. Pat-5351 February 21, 2013 Reply

    I am sorry to say that this is a problem without a solution. The cat is out of the bag with society–we cannot have morals based education anymore, you are not going to “get” couples long before pre-cana to give them formation for marriage, like in High school. You will not change laws to make marriage education be a requirement before marriage; it is just not going to happen.

    We have gay marriage in the offing in my state and many others; there is no way they will make marriage less accessible when the push is to make it more accessible, even for those who do not qualify for it (by being of the opposite sex).

    I am a lawyer too, and know a lot about family law as well, and while “no fault” did take away the need to “prove up” a “ground” for the dissolution of the marriage itself (you don’t have to “prove” your spouse cheated, or deserted you, as a legal evidentiary matter, in a hearing) and that is a small time saver, divorce is still a long and ugly process in most states/court systems. Divorce is not easy, no matter the form of it.

    I actually think the Church (and that will be only a small portion of the population, those who want to marry in the Church), that couples presenting for marriage should have to fill out detailed forms, under oath, like you do for an annulment.

    Stuff that covers the consent issue, the duress issue, asks all the questions that could then later be a ground for an annulment (are you co habitating? Is the woman pregnant? Do you use contraception? etc.) and make everyone go through THAT process before marriage, that would shake out a lot of problems. Not the lame process that we call Pre Cana, let’s call it Pre Annulment Education or something like that.

    Of course, many will flee from marrying in the church then. They will not want to go through it, or not want to face the truth, or be “called out” by the Church as to where they stand.

    But the ones who don’t will not be able to say they didn’t know or didn’t understand.

    Other than that, I don’t think the problem has a prayer of even a partial solution; it’s like abortion–absent an act of God, we as a society have made this bed, and now we are left to lie in it.

  5. John-642932 February 22, 2013 Reply

    Perhaps if we had a bifurcated marriage and divorce process dictated by the venue a couple chose to be married in, ALL of this could be decided at either the religious (Church) or secular level (State). Obviously, a practicing Catholic would choose Cannon Law to bind & guide them in matrimony, verses the secular “uniform” state statues. Then the authority would be back in the righteous hands for the faithful.

    • Donnie-947531 February 25, 2013 Reply

      In your scenario, would the Church be permitted to grant divorce or just annulments? Who would you imagine to make the decisions?

      • John-642932 March 7, 2013 Reply

        If it were a civil union (aka- civil marriage) then the court system would have jurisdiction over divorce. However, if it were a religious union, marriage, then the church would dictate the conditions. The dissolution of a religious marriage is by annulment. As far a who would make the decision- a diocesan tribunal supervised by the Bishop.

  6. Kwaku-654846 February 22, 2013 Reply

    Agreed!

  7. Jonathan-612626 February 22, 2013 Reply

    Divorce is against Catholic doctrine period. Our Lord said (Matthew 19:6) “Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”
    Saint Kings (who we are obligated to believe are in Heaven for their sanctity) once put those who divorce their spouse to the sentence of death.
    (There can be canonical separation to prevent or flee from abuse. Let us look to St. Rita though for a heroic example of virtue in such circumstances.)

    • John-642932 March 7, 2013 Reply

      There is explanation of sorts in Matthew 19, verses 8&9, which I think is basis for the Church granting annulments.

      Matthew 19
      American Standard Version (ASV)

      19 And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these words, he departed from Galilee, and came into the borders of Judaea beyond the Jordan;

      2 and great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.

      3 And there came unto him Pharisees, trying him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

      4 And he answered and said, Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,

      5 and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?

      6 So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

      7 They say unto him, Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away?

      8 He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so.

      9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.

      10 The disciples say unto him, If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.

      11 But he said unto them, Not all men can receive this saying, but they to whom it is given.

  8. Lesley-158563 February 22, 2013 Reply

    There is still free will. Honestly, people have to acknowledge their personal responsibility for their choices in life, whatever those may be. Ultimately, their actions are their own. That is more than half the battle.

  9. Vincent-767706 February 22, 2013 Reply

    People have to remember that marriage is primarily a sacramental vow and not a government institution. When we let our secular government define marriage, we should expect to be disappointed.

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