This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Is Divorce Just a Piece of Paper?

In Part 1 I went over reasons people consider divorce to be just a piece of paper. In this post I look at the other side of the issue. This has been an issue debated many times and there is now a great topic on the forum where this issue is just one of the debates in the thread.

Thread: Divorce and MLC

Divorce is Not Just a Piece of Paper

If Divorce is just paper, then so is marriage—to not take divorce seriously is to not take marriage seriously.
If we believe it’s only a piece of paper then that is what you will get. I guess I’m annoyed with the use of the term it’s just a piece of paper as I hear it mentioned so casually all the time now. We’ve become so desensitized to divorce it’s become an epidemic.
The marriage license is paper, the institution of marriage is not paper. The paper document created at the time of a marriage outlines the legal parameters if the union. The paper document created at the time of divorce outlines the legal parameters of how the union will be dissolved, how the assets will be divided as well as other pertinent issues such as child custody and support, alimony and possible restrictions on remarriage regarding the division of assets or savings. Those parameters will affect your life, but they do not have to define it.
My marriage contract did not discuss our sex life. It did not outline who would make more money, who would do the dishes, whether we would have children, how we would argue or make up, whether we would attend church or what church we would attend… It said nothing about my marriage.

Divorce matters because health insurance and finances change.
Absolutely. Not only will a spouse no longer have partner benefits, children may be affected too. My Mother had to take me Dad to court to get him to cover me under his health plan. He had a new car every year—he favored Chevy Camaros with a T-top. Grandpa paid for the beater my Mom drove.

It’s real to our children. It has real consequences that are life-long and damaging.
Yes. Divorcing increases the odds your children will divorce, that they will drop out of high school not attend college, live in poverty and become teenage parents. It doesn’t guarantee any of those—my parents divorced when I was 4 and I completed High School, College and Graduate School; I’m not rich but I’m not living in poverty either and I not only did I not become a teenage parent, I held onto my virginity until I was 22. But divorce affected me in spite of my successes. It was likely due to my parent’s divorce that I am a marriage advocate.
I lived with my Mom and spend weekends with my Dad. But not every weekend—though every weekend was part of the custody agreement. I was involved in church, my Dad wasn’t. I often spent weekends with Grandma and Grandpa and my cousins. I had dance class, swim meets, or synchronized swimming events on the weekends; my Mom took me, not my Dad.
At my Dad’s I usually did not have a room of my own—I had a couch or shared with a step sister—but it was her room, not mine; I was a guest. My little brother lived with his mother who was also divorced from my Dad. When he was little my Dad worked weekends and I went with him, so I only got to see my brother if we could grab a few minutes to take him to breakfast. My Dad lived an hour away from both me and my brother. He lived between us, so on weekends we had long car rides.
I don’t know what it is like to have two parents who live together and love each other. So yes, divorce has real consequences.

Divorce can be contagious among friends. It is real to those who catch it.
The following social relationships increase a couples likelihood of divorce.1
Sibling: 22%
Co-Worker: 55%
Close Friend: 75%
Multiple Friends 146%

Does it matter to them that your divorce gets reversed if they are divorced as part of the aftermath of your divorce? They may be happy for you, but they are still divorced and their children are still living the consequences. The divorce contract said nothing about those ripple effects, but they happened anyway. Whether you consider that paper was valid or not the affects are real.

Marriage can provide protection for a spouse and children.
Divorce can provide protection for a spouse and children.

Yup, both are true. Marriage includes things like next of kin, retirement and health benefits. Divorce lays out requirements for paying child support, alimony and separates finances and poor credit. Some Standers will initiate divorce proceedings because it is in the best financial interest for themselves and their children. Some will not initiate a divorce because their estranged spouse continues to pay the bills or covers much needed health benefits.
Both the marriage and divorce are more than just paper. They are more than just the institution of marriage or the severing of a marriage. The paper contracts determine what protections you may receive. That is important.

Render unto Caesar…
This seems to be about three separate and yet intertwined states.

  1. Civil
  2. Divine
  3. Emotional

Civil law oversees civilian life and thus a change in civil union has real implications. Both Emotional and Divine law have the power to maintain what it created, but they may not prevent civil implications. They can influence and prevent, but they will not override. Paper or not, no one is saying that a divorce will not lead to significant life changes. It seems that those who like the phrase focus on the either the religious or emotional status—their emotions, not the MLCers, and those who do not like the phrase focus on the literal life changes; those represented by the legal status.

Symbols

It is a symbol of our love and commitment.
Wedding rings and the Marriage Document (civil license and/or religious covenant) are important and recognized symbols of the marriage itself. Though it is true that symbols hold no intrinsic power and do not define the individuals or the marriage, they hold within them the power each person gives to them.
The meaning within the symbols does not reside within the specific items—losing a ring does no harm to my marriage; the object can be replaced. But the wearing of the rings is a public message. Divorce for some symbolizes an ending a change and a new life—whether that is positive or negative and it is not just paper. For others the meaning is literal. It is a legal contract drawn up to determine the division of assets and additional responsibilities. Symbols are metaphors; they are not literal. But please understand that for some there is power in the symbol just as there may be power in the paper.

Source

McDermott, Rose, Fowler, James H. and Christakis, Nicholas A., Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample Followed for 32 Years (October 18, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1490708

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