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Disability & Divorce

The law has often been behind the times as far as rulings go on specific cases. Family Law is no exception. Many of the laws do not account for special and rare circumstances. There are many disability laws and regulations implemented in other areas of law, however, there are next to none when it comes to the matter of divorce. That is until now. The Illinois Supreme Court opened the door to divorce for people who need guardians because of mental disabilities just this month, and the realm in which Family Law now covers has broadened because of it.

For years, Illinois has been against guardians seeking a divorce on behalf of the mentally disabled people under their protection. That meant the disabled person could not get a divorce unless his or her spouse started the process. To say that this is a double standard would be an understatement. However, guardians were still looked upon as just that, and in no way were they an extension of the disabled person in question.

Before the Law was Implemented

The ban, when in place, affected people with severe brain damage, but it also covered those who could make their wishes known; for example those with Alzheimer’s, or anyone with a mental illness whose effects are not 100% permanent on a daily basis.

The court’s new ruling said an outright ban is no longer appropriate. It could leave vulnerable people “at the complete mercy” of spouses who abuse them or exploit them financially. Guardians will now be able to file for divorce and then a judge will decide if there is clear and convincing evidence that it would be in the disabled person’s best interests. In some cases, that will mean weighing the evidence without any help from the person directly affected. But in others, the people with disabilities will be able to speak for themselves. This obviously depends on the type of mental illness and the severity.

Who is Affected?
At first the restriction on divorce was meant to only affect people with severe brain damage, such as might be sustained in an accident, but ultimately the law affected people who had the ability to make their wishes known. Such individuals’ mental illness may come and go, or perhaps the person’s condition was Alzheimer’s disease. Mental disability rights advocates say that those conditions in themselves should not automatically bar people’s guardians from filing for divorce on their behalf.

Many of the advocacy groups feel that this recent ruling is a step in the right direction toward fully protecting the rights of the disabled. Under the new rules, the guardian of a disabled person will be able to file for divorce on that person’s behalf, and it will be up to a judge to determine on an individual basis what is in the best interest of the disabled partner.

Incorporating disability into laws, such as the ones under the Family Law statute, is a sign that the laws are coming into their own and becoming more adaptive to everyone. With a broader scope under the law, more and more people will have equal rights when it comes to the dissolution of marriage.

Massachusetts Alimony Law Changes

Each state has its own specific and detailed laws in regards to anything that falls under the Family Law tree. Obviously these laws vary state to state, depending on certain instances that only occur and apply to that state, for whatever reason that may be. So, it’s only natural that the state of Massachusetts has its own laws concerning such things as child support and alimony.

However, up until September of 2011, the laws and stipulations concerning alimony were not too kind to those who had to pay it, simply because of the fact that the rules were set in stone and certain circumstances affected those in a divorce quite negatively. That is, of course, until  Governor Deval Patrick signed Chapter 124 of the Acts of 2011. By doing so, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts effectively abolished most lifetime spousal support, thus joining several other states where alimony payment laws have changed. Many of these changes occurred because those who were forced to pay it could not, due to the fact that they were struggling in the current economy.

Significance of the Change

This new change in the measure generally ends alimony either when the payer reaches retirement age or when the recipient has cohabited with a another romantic partner for at least 90 days. With this new law comes a change in how alimony is properly calculated, based on the length of the marriage in question.

This being said the law does still allow judges to award indefinite alimony for long-term marriages. A long-term marriage is defined as a marriage lasting 20 or more years. In the case of short marriages, judges can order “reimbursement alimony” in such situations as when one spouse put the other through school during the length of the marriage.

Why the Change?
This is adjustment to the Massachusetts law was done so to end the previously common practice of judges awarding alimony as a permanent entitlement; such practice is becoming an increasingly rare practice across the U.S because it was seen as highly unjust and unfair. So now, the law sets guidelines for determining the amount of alimony payments. Signed in September 2011, the changes took effect in March 2012, which allows people who are currently paying lifetime alimony to file for modifications starting in 2013.

Tips for Moving on After Divorce

Moving past a relationship can be tough. This cliché has been reproduced in our society for hundreds of years. Love had and lost is a true theme of the human nature. We are all destined to encounter these types of situations at some point in our life.

All people react differently, but no one is immune to the negative emotions that surround this feeling of failed interaction between man and woman. Because it is inescapable to avoid these pains at one point or another, and divorces have become a prominent situation in our society, it has been stressed more and more as to how we can successfully move past these situations. What can you do to help yourself emotionally persevere?

Find a listener, and Forget About Revenge

Communication most likely was a part of the problem in your marriage; don’t let it follow you as you free yourself from a divorce. Two way constructive communications is important, not only for you to express how you feel but to get an outside and honest opinion about some of the things you may question. A long marriage can cloud your judgment and opinions in dealing with your now ex-spouse. A friend who can be objective and is willing to listen to you can be helpful because it is someone you can trust. However, no one should feel guilty about seeing a professional if they really need someone to talk to. We all have questions and problems within our life, and (truth be told) could all use someone with a professionally trusted opinion to help guide us at certain points in time.

Don’t get sucked back into revenge thoughts. We have all had those feelings. Wounded and left with no way to feel better except to inflict damage on the parties that wounded us. These are natural feelings; although they serve no purpose but to perpetuate the negativity and unhealthy behavioral pattern that might have led us into a harmful marriage in the first place. Most likely, no matter the situation, you can shoulder part of the blame for the way things turned out. Coming to terms with your role and accepting a portion of the blame will help you keep a level head and begin to understand that the best form of medicine is to start moving on.

Put more energy into your social life and broaden your horizons

Marital problems and significant schisms in your relationship can set your social life back from where you want it to be. A divorce can also do damage to your attitude at work and affect your productivity. In your post divorce life, focusing on your work or social life can be a helpful distraction and could possibly lead to positive things as you navigate new waters after many years of traversing rough seas. Nautical cliché references aside, many of us need distractions in trying times. Broadening our horizons and trying new things socially can help you both move on from the past and begin to create a positive future.

Moving forward through any negative phase in life can be emotionally stressful. Oftentimes we have to hit a certain “bottom” before we realize how low we have sunk. Avoiding these worst case scenarios and prolonging our misery will only keep setting us back on our road to recovery. Seeking out good listeners, someone to talk to, and trying new things will create positive distractions for as you attempt to dissociate from problematic time in your life. Moving on is never easy, but it’s up to you on how you react to these types of situations

Grandparents: Keep Out!

Divorces often creates a divide when it comes to families and extended families alike. Due to the fact that not all divorces can be amicable and have families fully agree with the situation, and go on living as they did before, divorces can be damaging both mentally and physically sometimes.

Division of families brings the choice of how to go on after the divorce. This is true for everyone directly and indirectly involved. One big decision can change the way in which an entire family lives their lives. Assets are divided, property is distributed, but so too are family members. So many questions are asked, “Do I live with mom or dad?”, “Where do we go for Thanksgiving?” and many more.

One landmark case also changed the face of visitation for extended family forever on June 5th, 2000.

In the case concerning Troxel vs. Granville, the Supreme Court invalidated a Washington State law that allowed third parties to petition for child visitation rights over parental objections. Simply stating that the parents of the children in question were the only ones to decide who could and couldn’t have visitation rights to their children. The Supreme Court said that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court,” noting that such petitions are an unconstitutional intrusion into a parent’s right to raise a child as they see fit.

The ruling effectively eliminated grandparents’ visitation rights when parents object to the visitation. This also extended to any other third party directly involved, such as stepparents or other closely tied relatives. The Supreme Court struck down the Washington grandparent visitation statute because it unconstitutionally infringed on the fundamental parental right to raise their children as they see fit.

Due to this case, the law now requires courts to give parents’ decisions concerning whether, when, and how grandparents will associate with their children. Even though Troxel vs. Granville does not define “special weight,” previous Supreme Court precedent indicates that “special weight” is a strong term signifying very considerable deference to any particular person being allowed visitation with children in question.

Parents will ultimately always have the right to govern who their children can see whilst under the age of 18, and rightly so. This ruling only further makes this natural governing all the more legal and final in the eyes of the law. Divorces do unfortunately take their toll on families in a multitude of different ways. Extended family are sometimes just as affected as those directly involved. However, keeping the best interest of all children involved at the forefront of all decisions is something that the courts have done even more so with this ruling.

Prominent Novels for Coping with Divorce

 

In our world we look for examples, build on experience, and need templates to sometimes show us the way. Self-help books fly off the shelf like Apple products, waiting to be sucked up as if they have some sort of ancient Atlantian knowledge we would never be able to figure out on our own. Experience cannot be substituted or duplicated. Step by step instructions do not allow us to learn or assist in coping with situations we may be experiencing. When it comes to human behavior and life’s trial, acute insight can help us feel we are not alone in our particular current struggle, allowing us to cope honestly and truly and learn from our past. In no situation can this be truer than divorce.

For every spouse or family, the nature of their separation is different.  Therefore people take on or experience different forms of mostly the same emotions. Grief, guilt, loss, anger, these are just some of the common resonating feelings that most people feel form a broken marriage. Luckily there are a select few who can masterfully put these feelings and their experiences into words, so that those of us who may be experiencing the same indefinable emotional tendencies, can learn more about ourselves and how to succeed in future situations.

Eat, Pray, Love

Now known for its motion picture adaption, starring Julia Roberts, “Eat, Pray, Love” tells the story of a Elizabeth Gilbert and how she made a difficult, yet momentous decision to turn away from the typical American successes, or trappings in her case, house, marriage, security, and venture out into the world to find herself. Traveling across the world and immersing herself in different cultures, this heartfelt memoir has connected with millions of readers, helping them follow their hearts and stay true to what their true purpose might be.

Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce

A story about a woman’s struggle to cope after her husband, after ten years, announced he wanted a divorce. Being left in a new house, alone,  starting a new job, and with a new baby, author Stacey Morrison tells and emotionally charged story about how she fretted, scrambled, and willed herself to open up and learn about this life-changing experience.

Split

An unflinching look at how discord and divorce can creep up within a relationship and leave someone in shambles, author Susan Finnamore was taken by surprise when her husband, suddenly announced, he needed happiness without her. Simultaneously funny, sad, and deeply poignant, Finnamore tells the story of a woman who experienced the worst, but came out the other side changed.

There are many novels and memoirs that connect us with those who are or have experienced the worst in their respective journey. From hitting bottom and coming out the other side a new person, the struggle in coping with this life changing event has and will continue to be documented. Divorce situations, no matter how different, they vary from family to family, create relatable experiences through each person’s unique perspective. Anyone going through a tough divorce should always know that there are memoirs like these out there to help remind them that there are millions of people who have fallen and picked themselves back up to come through a better person, and ready to reach back out to the outside world.

Strange Divorce Ruling

There have been a number of landmark cases that have set precedents for divorce and divorce laws. However, the majority of those were positive and propelled divorce into the 21st century. This being said, across the world, divorce is still seemingly catching up, and in a few rare cases, falling behind, thanks to the laws that were decreed so long ago before the new age of technology.

One instance of a set back in divorce laws is that of Mr. and Mrs. Prest, a case coming out

Pregnant Man Files for Arizona Divorce

 

You know times have changed when you see a headline starting with “pregnant man.” But in today’s world, where gender roles are continually being debated over, and the institution of marriage is being redefined state by state and law by law, it is no surprise that new scenarios in divorce will eventually come to the forefront.

The Blurred Lines of Marriage, Gender, and Divorce Laws

Transgendered couples’ laws are still in their infancy when it comes to marriage and divorce. So it’s no wonder that when it comes to a divorce in this type of situation, the lines are still completely blurred. Thomas Beatie, a transgendered man, was born a woman in his native state of Hawaii. He underwent an external sex change to become, for all intents and purposes, a man before he married his partner, Nancy, in 2003.

After learning that Nancy was unable to bear children, and still having female reproductive organs, Thomas bore their 3 children, making headlines when photos of him pregnant with a mustache were leaked online. Legally married in Hawaii, which recognizes same sex marriages, the couples have since moved their family to Arizona.

The Difference a State Makes

After moving to Arizona, to live the couple recently decided to file for divorce. While Hawaii recognizes their marriage as legitimate, they also recognize Beatie as a man. Arizona’s law, however, does not recognize same sex marriage and the courts have questioned the validity of their marriage. While Beatie’s lawyer has admitted that this scenario was new territory for Arizona law, he argues that if one state recognizes the legality of the situation, who is Arizona to refute the validity?

While it would technically be cheaper for Thomas to have the state not recognize his marriage and bypass having to pay any spousal support, he and his lawyer state that the case is not about the divorce laws themselves, but about validation for Thomas concerning his marriage.

This case, as with many others concerning either same-sex couples or transgendered couples, will continue to make headlines as they push the boundaries of the court courts and law structures. The social pressure on law makers to allow for same sex couples to experience the same rights in marriage as well as sharing in the divorce procedure has greatly increased in the last 10 years. Stories like this and others will grow more common as a collective push is made to increase the rights couples and transgendered marriages like Thomas’.

When to Introduce the Children

 

Divorces aren’t fun for anyone involved. The dissolution of a marriage and the breakdown of a family is devastating. However, being happy and true to oneself is of the utmost importance in these situations, and to life in general. Rebuilding your life after a divorce is part of the healing process, and for many this includes romantic interests.

When divorcees do meet that special someone, often times, telling their new significant other about their past divorce is one of the hardest things they ever have to do. Right on par with this hard task is telling them about your children; and harder still, introducing your special someone to said children.

When & How
It’s important to take things slowly when children are involved, especially if the children are of a very young age. When and how to introduce the kids to your dating partner and their kids depends on several very calculated variables:

1) Time is Precious

Waiting a significant amount of time is always best when thinking about introducing a significant other to the children. The simple fact of the matter is depending on how long after the divorce this new relationship is formed, the children are more than likely still going through the healing process. It often takes children longer than parents to fully adapt and comprehend to new situations. Making sure that your significant other is in for the long haul, and can handle children in all settings is something you want to know before introducing these components of your life. Having a slew of “special” people meet your children and have nothing pan out can damage both you and your children in terms of mental stability.

2) Relationship Status

Introducing a significant other to anyone important in your life, let alone your children, is important. However, determining what the new relationship is before all of this introducing is even more important. Establishing ground rules, and setting goals is a good thing to do in the infancy of a relationship. Knowing that both parties are on the same page helps, because if one person is not looking for anything serious, introducing children should be out of the question entirely.

3) Establishing Terms

If introducing the new person in your life to your children is indeed what you want to do, it’s important that the two of you weighed all of the options, discuss, and agree on how it will occur, together. Knowing that both parties are completely in sync with how the process will work is beneficial to all involved. Perhaps only one day a week with the whole new blended family is best, perhaps more. As long as everyone involved, including the children, know what is going on then the process should go smoothly.

In conclusion, it’s best to hold off involving your kids in a new relationship without exploring all options and variables beforehand, as it may cause them further trauma, and possibly sabotage your new relationship too. Wait until you are certain and secure as a couple, and until you both have realistic expectations. If it’s really something that is important to you both, then waiting will not be a problem. The best and smoothest transition is what the overall goal should be, so do all you can to achieve it.

The Divorce Year in Review

Sadly, the nation’s eyes and ears have become fixated on celebrities and their ludicrous actions. From week-long marriages to rehab stints, there is no shortage of brain-shrinking fodder that gets more attention on TV. In what would be the honor, or more acutely the exact opposite, let’s take a look at 2 incidences of behavior that would absolutely be an undeniable sign of divorce, and, more than likely be convincing evidence of the need for a complete psychological evaluation.

What Happened to You, Ochocinco?

It’s all fun and games until you cease to catch touchdown passes, start allegedly head butting your spouse, and tattoo your ex’s face on your leg. Chad Johnson has been in the news for more serious matters allegedly assaulting his then wife, Evelyn Lozada, who to be fair is no stranger to reality show type behavior since she earned her “fame” as a direct result of being on a reality television show. But Chad’s questionable decision of responding to his situation, serious charges, and divorce by getting a large tattoo of Evelyn’s face on his leg is nothing if not cringe worthy.

Everything About Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries “Marriage”

If ever there was a social reason why we should continue the search for intelligent life on other plants so part of the global population could either join them or possibly ship families like the Kardashian’s to that planet, this scenario would be Exhibit A. Still getting dragged through the media muddied waters, reporting on their divorce proceedings seem to have become some kind of Newtonian Law that mainstream media must follow, or else the earth’s gravity may reverse. That can be the only explanation as to why any human with normal cognitive reasoning levels would continue to care or think there is a any reason that anything about this situation is worth spreading.

These scenarios are truly frustrating because marriage and divorce is a serious matter. There are numerous psychological and social studies that explore divorce issues, like how to properly cope with the emotional trauma that is associated with the breaking up of the nuclear family. But celebrity divorces seem to ignore the fact that divorce is no joke and should not be taken lightly. Many families will go through the divorce process unprepared emotionally, legally, or financially, and never view divorce as flippantly the way the media seems to view divorce. While it is understandable that not all relationships will work out, the sacredness of marriage and the dissolution of marriage should not be viewed so carelessly.

A Brief History of Divorce

Divorce, as we have discussed in our blogs and throughout this site, is prevalent in today’s society. Many researchers point to every little move as either the end of marriage as we know it, or a sign that people are losing their morals. The fact is, divorce, regardless of its time, place, or numbers, has had a place in society for hundreds of years. Different cultures throughout history have had their own way of dissolving marital unions. Some dissolution customs were pretty harsh, but it was the way of the times when religion reigned supreme. Not to bring religion in to the picture, but marriage and its numerous customs are related to religious beliefs.

Medieval Europe

In the post Roman Empire world, familial life was governed and influenced more by religious beliefs and customs than it was by civil courts. As time passed in the 9th and 10th century, the number of divorces had been greatly reduced by the authority of the church so that it became almost unthinkable to approach the subject. The view of divorce, as the process is known today, was for all intents and purposes prohibited after the tenth century. However, a separation of husband and wife, and the annulment of marriage did exist. What is today referred to as “separate maintenance,” otherwise known as legal separation, was termed “divorce a mensa et thoro” (which translates to “divorce from bed-and-board”). The husband and wife were physically separated and were then forbidden to live or cohabit together; but their marital relationship did not fully terminate.

Lack of Civil Influence

In medieval Europe the civil courts had no power over marriage or divorce. Any grounds for annulment were determined by church authority and were accordingly applied in the ecclesiastical courts. Annulment was given for very limited reasons, and was the only consistent causes for a complete dissolution of marriage. The church held the unwavering belief that the sacrament of marriage made two people inseparable from each other. Applying this theory literally was the propensity of religious cultures at these times, especially the Christian church. As far as governing rules, when husband and wife became one person upon marriage, this act could only be completely dissolved or annulled if they initially entered into the sacrament improperly.

Those medieval notions of divorce are a far cry from today’s western view for sure. But it shows just how far back the desire and situations of dissolving marriages extends; and the truth is divorce and the dissolution of marriage goes back even further. So when we see “new” information or anyone take up in arms about the impending doom of marriage as we know it, know that it is just history semi-repeating itself. As cultures change, the beliefs in society either change as well. Our views on long-standing occurrences that have been in our culture will fluctuate with the times. Divorce has, and will be, around as long as people get married. Failures, as well as successes, in relationships will persist because it is an extension of a our faulty nature.