Let's talk about the elephant in the room: the divorce rate in America. As of 2010, 20% of marriages will end in divorce within 5 years. 35% of marriages end in divorce within 10 years. 43% of marriages end in divorce within 15 years. 50% of marriages end in divorce within 20 years. The stats for 2013/2014 are probably worse. Those statistics are bleak. But divorce isn't inevitable. There are alternatives and I talk about them below.
Don't Get Divorced
That headline sounds facetious and perhaps a bit ridiculous. But it raises the question: why are people getting divorced so much? One reason is that married couples do not do enough self-reflection before filing for divorce. Another reason is that many couples simply give up without trying to work things out. Are you considering divorce for selfish or superficial reasons or because you truly are unhappy? Ideally, your reason for filing should be the latter. As a family law attorney, I would never judge anyone for getting a divorce. DUH. But divorcing for the wrong reasons can lead to a second or even third divorce in the future if the divorcee lacks the proper perspective. Assuming there is no emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in the relationship, I would advise that anyone contemplating divorce first see a Marriage and Family Therapist before filing. The process is even more beneficial if your spouse attends therapy with you.
Don't Get Married
A family law judge once joked, "the number one cause of divorce is marriage." Although the judge was obviously joking, the divorce statistics in America would suggest otherwise. I'd like to modify the judge's statement. I would say that the number one causes of divorce are marrying the wrong person, for the wrong reason, and/or at the wrong time. For instance, statistics show that those who marry between the ages of 20 and 24 have the highest rate of divorce. The moral of the story? Don't get married unless you know for sure that it is the right time, with the right person, and for the right reason. Doing all of the above will ensure that you and your spouse end up in what I call, "the other 50%."
Legal separation is NOT a “trial separation.” Rather, legal separation may be an alternative to divorce if for one of a variety of reasons, a married couple would like to deal with their marital , but would prefer to remain married. There are several significant differences between a legal separation and a divorce. For instance, both spouses must agree to a legal separation. If not, a legal separation becomes a divorce. Second, there is no “waiting period” for a legal separation. In the state of California, a divorce requires a mandatory six month “waiting period” between when a divorce is started and the earliest possible date when a divorce can be complete. However, a legal separation can happen immediately. Another important difference is that legal separation does not carry the same six-month California residency requirement as divorce. In some cases, coupes file for legal separation and then later amend the petition for a dissolution of marriage, i.e., divorce, once the six-month residency requirement has been met.
A common reason for legally separating as opposed to divorcing include religious reasons for divorce and avoiding the permanent effects of divorce. Legal separation also allows the couple to maintain some of the same legal benefits of being married such as obtaining health insurance benefits obtained through a spouse and other legal benefits. All without terminating the marriage. Consulting with a Family Law Attorney will make the Legal Separation process as painless as possible.
I hope that this article was helpful for anyone contemplating divorce. If you've tried all the above and still want to file for divorce, you'll at least be able to see the bigger picture when it comes time to file for divorce. That will hopefully lead to an uncontested divorce focused on settlement as opposed to a contentions focused on winning and losing. As always, I highly recommend consulting with a Family Law Attorney before filing. As I said in last week's post, anyone who represents themselves in court has a fool for a client.
In next week's post, I explain the concept of "No-Fault" Divorce in California. Until then, happy Throwback Thursday!
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