Wednesday, October 16, 2019

THE POVERTY OF DIVORCE

I can remember my husband saying that one of the greatest causes of women living in poverty in the United States was no-fault divorce. Although he was a litigator and corporate lawyer, he tended to be a compassionate father-confessor to many of the women who worked with him and saw them struggling with financial as well as emotional issues after being abandoned by their husbands.  
When he taught each of our six children to drive, he began by telling them that in the state of California, parents of children between the ages of sixteen and eighteen can have their teenager's driver's license taken away for any reason or no reason. And that is what can happen with marriages now: one spouse, usually the husband, can divorce the other for any reason or no reason. This necessarily leads to a deep instability in the institution of marriage where husbands and wives can feel as if they are walking on eggs because at any moment the person who promised to love them until death can break that vow and leave. If there are children in the marriage, the instability has deep repercussions for them: not only is their family split apart, but the fact that their parents don't love each other any more can easily lead them to doubt whether their parents love them. And in many cases the parent who walks out of their home also walks out of their lives.
I understand the mentality that drove the push for no fault divorce, where women were caught in abusive marriages and often seemed unable to escape.  But as my husband also used to say, hard cases make bad law and the resulting apparent revolving door approach to marriage has resulted in far more chaos and heartbreak. 
Since I began volunteering as a team presenter on Beginning Experience Weekend retreats for the widowed, separated and divorced, I see the devastation wreaked by separation and divorce in a landscape littered by broken promises and dreams, and abandoned spouses and children who are deeply wounded. Being involved in a ministry that reaches out to enable participants to begin healing has also made me thankful that I am a widow, since at least I know that I was faithfully and passionately loved. The law teaches as well as legislates, and what it is teaching now is that marriages are disposable; it is time to bring back some protections to those who are most at risk with this perception, the abandoned spouse and children.

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