They say love is forever but for some people, that is not the case. One of the most painful things to experience is heartbreak and more so when it is the end of a happy marriage. Whatever reason behind the breaking down of a marriage, divorce is admittedly hard not only on the couple but also for their family and friends.
Divorce happens when a husband and wife decide that their time being married is over. It is not as simple as a regular break-up because now that they are legally tied together, it involves a more complicated and concrete process when separating.
What is divorce?
Divorce is a legal dissolving or termination of a marriage by a judge or authority. This means that after a divorce, both parties are considered single and can remarry. Before, the divorce rate in the United States was so high that it was believed that 50% of marriages ended in separation. Nowadays, things are different with just a third of marriages facing the trials of uncoupling. This is because of the changes in the newer generation such as marrying at a later age when they are already financially stable and have an established and sustainable career.
Despite the drop in US divorce rates, many husbands and wives are still finding it hard to stay in a marriage. When all other methods of saving a partnership such as couples therapy and mediation fail, it ultimately leads to the sad path of divorce.
In the United States, individual state laws govern the divorce process. Since these laws may vary from state to state, the couple petitioning for separation has to file in a state where they have been a resident for a certain period even if it is not the state they were married in. The proceedings of divorce usually include discussions on child custody, child support, division of debt, distribution of property, child visitation and of course, spousal approval. These decisions are handled and examined by the court, taking into consideration prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements.
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When it comes to dividing assets, the court follows two schemes of labeling property. These are community property and equitable distribution. Between these two, whichever the court follows depends on the state.
- Equitable distribution
In this type of distribution, the resources are divided according to each individual’s circumstances. This means that it is still considered a fair division but not exactly equal. The judge holds a lot in decision-making as he/she analyses the different factors regarding the condition of distribution.
The factors include each person’s ability to support one’s self or perhaps who sacrificed more (like career) to take care of the child/children. Naturally, larger shares of assets are given to the less well-off person in the marriage. Other factors that the judge considers when dividing marital properties include the duration of the marriage, overall health, and age of both parties.
- Community property
Following the community distribution simply means dividing the marital properties in half. The judge does not have any other considerations and splits the marital assets 50/50. Because of the quick and clean process of division, only a minority of states namely Arizona, Louisiana, California, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Wisconsin, Nevada, and New Mexico follow this scheme.
If neither of the property distribution is to a couple’s liking, they can always opt for a negotiated post-marital settlement wherein they control the division of assets with the help of their divorce attorney.
Types of divorce
Although divorces are all the same when it comes to being dissolution to marriage, there are many types of divorce that separating partners should know beforehand:
This type of uncoupling does not require any submission of proof of fault from either of the party. The grounds for this type of separation include irreconcilable differences, incompatibility, and the irremediable breaking down of the marriage. If it is not a mutual filing of breaking union, the other party is not allowed to object to their partner’s decision. This is because the disagreement to separate may also be considered further proof of their differences.
This is the most common type of divorce.
The at-fault divorce is the opposite of the no-fault divorce and requires the parties to provide proof or evidence to show the accountability or fault of their partner. The grounds are marital misconduct which usually includes abuse, abandonment, desertion, adultery, imprisonment, substance abuse, insanity, and the inability to have sexual intercourse, etc. In this case, the person who manages to prove the other party guilty of one of these actions might be in greater favor for larger alimony and marital property.
Unlike no-fault divorce, there are grounds of an objection of the fault being pinned on one of the parties. These are called fault divorce defenses and they include:
- Connivance- this is when the spouse encourages, sets up, or baits their partner into doing a wrongful act such as adultery, and later on using it against them in court.
- Condonation- the condonation defense claim means that the spouse has accepted, forgiven, and continued the marriage with their partner despite the wrongful act. Because the party has once put the action behind them, he/she cannot bring it up as grounds of at-fault divorce.
- Provocation- this means that the other party’s actions led their partner into committing one of the acts of marital misconduct. For example, if one party files on the grounds of abandonment, the provocation defense could be that the partner was abusive thus resulting in the desertion.
- Recrimination- when the spouse commits the same wrongful act that they are accusing their partner of doing, it is considered a recrimination defense.
- Collusion- this happens when both parties agree to fabricate a certain ground of divorce just to make the process of achieving separation faster. One party can claim collusion when afterward, they have a change of heart regarding their situation.
These defenses may benefit the one who raised it but it does not mean that the divorce will not be approved and finalized. In the end, the best that can happen is getting better shares in the divorce as the judge cannot force an unwilling party to stay married. Additionally, these defense claims require solid proof such as witnesses, physical evidence, or different types of records.
The summary dissolution of marriage benefits couples who do not desire much from legal separation. This means that couples are eligible for this type of official separation if:
- Their marriage only lasted for a short duration (five years or fewer).
- The couple does not have any natural or adopted children. In other states, they are still counted eligible if they already have an agreement when it comes to child custody arrangements and support.
- They do not own substantial property or a mortgage to a home.
- Each party gives up its right to alimony.
- They do not have any considerable joint debts.
- Their separate and marital properties combined, with the exemption of the value of vehicles; do not exceed a standard threshold. In the circumstance that it does, some states accept documents that prove an agreement of both parties dividing the assets.
Filing for a summary divorce is one of the more practical options if the marriage fits into its requirements as it demands fewer court appearances and paperwork.
When it comes to this type of judicial separation, both spouses have already agreed on the proceedings of divorce like child custody, distribution of property, and the like. Under the guidance and assistance of their attorneys, these are documented and signed as a marital settlement agreement and submitted to the court for the final court decree.
If one party cannot be located or perhaps chooses to be non-participative in the process, an uncontested divorce is the best fit.
As its name suggests, this is when the couple attempts to solve major problems within breaking off a marriage through a professional mediator. This mainly includes talking about what will be the best decision and arrangements for the marriage to end in good terms and cost-effectively. As a failing marriage would have communication problems among other personal issues, the mediator is there to assist the soon to-be-separated couple and maintain a peaceful atmosphere between them.
The mediator remains to be a neutral party and does not hold any power in the final decision of the court. His/her sole purpose is to report the results of the mediation and the settlements made.
In a collaborative divorce, both parties engage in a series of joint sessions wherein they decide on the best settlement that leads to a holistic result. The focus is on the betterment of all parties involved and the family.
It is not unusual for couples going through the process of divorce to agree to disagree. Once they are hopeless in reaching an agreement, here is when the role of an arbitrator is needed in a private hearing. Both parties will pitch their issues, opinions or decisions, and preferred procedures to be followed. As the arbitrator is to be approved by both parties, he/she is considered a neutral third person in the decision. The arbitrator’s final decision cannot be appealed by either party.
Once all attempts of settlement fail despite the help of legal counsel, the separation can take a turn at a contested divorce. This is when they reach out to a judge or jury to determine the terms of a divorce. Contested divorces are settled on trial and are usually centered on child custody or property issues.
Divorce and Bible
Marriage is a holy union wherein the pair swears their love for each other with God as their witness. Despite church weddings and all those wedding vows, many unions end up broken in the end. In terms of the Bible, what does it have to say about divorce?
Technically, according to Matthew 5:31-32 the Bible indeed gives a nod towards divorce but under specific circumstances:
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
In this case, the Bible explains that divorce is possible but only the wronged gets a chance to remarry. The wrongdoer is subject to judgment and whoever marries this party is considered to be committing adultery instead.
According to the Holiness Code in Leviticus, grounds of divorce are adultery, homosexual sex, bestiality, and incest. Meanwhile, passage 1 Corinthians 7 adds abandonment due to spiritual incompatibility as another grounds. In conclusion, the Bible does not exactly command divorce but instead permits and limits the act according to its standard.
When do you know it is time to get a divorce?
Finally calling it quits requires thinking everything over to ensure that it is the best decision in the situation. Divorce might be a painful decision but there is no denying that for a couple who no longer get along, it is the healthiest option. There are many reasons for divorce as each marriage has its unique qualities and characteristics. Here are some common signs you should look out for to know when a marriage is beyond saving according to Marriage Counseling:
- Too much negative interactions
Some disputes here and there are normal for husband and wife but when it gets too excessive it may mean it's time to cut things off. To look at it easier, relationship experts have introduced the ‘magic ratio’ for couples to determine how happy they are together. The magic ratio weighs the number of positive and negative interactions with the magic number being 5:1. Happy, stable spouses have five positive exchanges to one negative exchange. Meanwhile, those going through a rough patch have more negative interactions than happy ones.
Following this, when small insignificant arguments seem to outnumber the happy times, maybe separation can bring back the spark of joy for each person.
- Personal differences in values
It is hard to work with someone you do not share the same values with. Having different values means having no common grounds as a pair. One of the most common value disputes is the disagreement on whether to focus on family or career.
Other times, it is evaluating what both parties want from the relationship and what they see for themselves in the future. The marriage may be turning grey when spouses aren’t seeing eye to eye and they are better off seeing other people who share the same values instead.
- Feeling emotionally drained
All the fighting and disagreements can lead to intense emotional exhaustion or burnout. With this kind of heavy emotional engagement, couples can even experience a withdrawal of affection and just simply feel like it is a burden to continue the relationship.
This can lead to what they call ‘falling out of love’ or maybe just having given up on the marriage altogether.
Marriage is supposed to be a union of two people who swear their love and loyalty to each other. Infidelity or being unfaithful ruins that promise. Some marriages survive and manage to overcome spouse’s affairs but when the trust is so damaged, the pain never really goes away. In this case, choosing legal separation is the first step to healing.
- Anger and abuse
No form of abuse whether physical, emotional, or sexual abuse should be tolerated in marriage. This is one of the many solid grounds of divorce and experts highly encourage leaving a marriage with issues like this. Aside from abuse, poor anger management can cause a heavy strain on a partnership. Sometimes, this uncontrollable anger leads to much worse circumstances such as domestic abuse.
- Other reasons for legal separation
A marriage’s final lifeline is marriage counseling. If this does not see any positive results, then maybe it is the end of the line for the relationship. Other common reasons for the dissolution of marriage include lack of physical intimacy, a shift of focus on factors outside marriage, only staying together for the sake of the children, and even no longer feeling valued or loved within the relationship.
Effects of divorce
Does divorce make you happy? Well, it is not a golden ticket to happiness as people perceive it to be. As a whole, judicial separation may fix some problematic areas in one’s life but it does not ensure a life of smiles afterward. A 2002 research published by the Institute of American Values states that divorced couples are not significantly happier after the separation. This may be because choosing divorce opens up other problems such as the psychological and emotional aspects.
After separation, there is the emotional adjustment as well as the healing process which may take some time. Aside from that, some experience a life of poverty after divorce as they are now handling the finances without a partner. For single parents, they face the burden of providing and at the same time nurturing the child/children by themselves.
The children are the most affected by divorce and oftentimes struggle to adjust to the situation. The effects of divorce on children include many factors such as poor performance in school, being overly sensitive (anger, guilt, irritable), feelings of social insecurity and becoming socially aloof, health problems due to stress, bad behavior, and loss of faith in marriage.
Overall, most children of divorce grow up confused and in an environment where they do not know where to place themselves, most especially in cases where both their parents remarry and start new families.
Divorce in the Philippines
Despite the rest of the world legalizing the act of judicial separation, the Philippines and the Vatican City are the only two places that still considers divorce illegal. The Philippines has a population of over 80% Roman Catholics and this is where the influence of divorce non-acceptance stems from.
The only exemption in the country’s no divorce laws is found with the Muslim minority because of their Sharia Law which allows the separation. Aside from that, the Philippines seems far from accepting marital separation in terms of a divorce. The only available option for spouses who wish to split up is an annulment under the Family Code.
While divorce means the dissolution of marriage, the costly annulment process is to void the marriage as if it never existed. Unlike no-fault divorces, annulments have strict legal grounds that have to be met for it to push through. These are psychological incapacity (mental illness), underage marriage, fraud, forced marriage, the spouse is physically incapable of consummating, impotence and sexually transmitted diseases.
These should be filed either five years after the marriage or five years from the point of fault. Additionally, adultery is not considered grounds for an annulment but it is a criminal offense.
With this kind of circumstance plus divorce being illegal, many women in the Philippines are perceived to be trapped in marriages. Statistics show that one in four women in the Philippines has experienced violence and spousal assault along with other abusive treatment. In regards to this, three absolute divorce bills have been filed by female senators Risa Hontiveros and Pia Cayetano.
Instead of being accepted with open arms, these bills have sparked controversy among people with clashing ideals. Some think of legalizing divorce as a step forward for the Philippines while others strongly oppose it in the name of marriage. As of now, divorce in the Philippines is filled with mixed opinions and there is no definite direction of where it is heading.
For a marriage to survive until the end regardless of obstacles, there should be an effort from both parties to reconcile and change for the better of their union.
Divorce has its perks when it comes to freeing one’s self from the burdens of marriage that they cannot handle anymore. It can be freeing and a breath of fresh air as well for those who have been in an abusive marriage.