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A Toast to Marriage and Alcohol Statistics

marriage and alcohol statsWhat can we really say about alcohol that hasn’t been said already? Alcohol can be part of your most embarrassing memory, be the center of controversy, cause you to be violently ill, and be a symbol of class and sophistication, all at the same time. This tricky substance has been associated with celebrations, ceremonies, and debauchery since the first greek accidentally stomped on a bunch of ripe grapes. But now, this mystical elixir is being associated with divorce; as it turns out, your relationship with alcohol may end your relationship with your spouse.

Cheers!

A monolith Norwegian study reported that married couples with varying patterns of alcohol consumption are more likely to divorce than married couples with the same patterns of alcohol consumption. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health studied 19,977 Norwegian married couples for a period of 15 years before they drew their conclusions.

The following are the reported findings from the study:

  • Marriages with two heavy drinkers had a divorce rate of 17.2%
  • Marriages with the husband drinking heavily had a divorce rate of 13.1%
  • Marriage with the wife drinking heavily had a divorce rate of 26.8%

The gender-based skewing of the data lends itself to much social commentary and speculation. Norwegian researchers involved in the study speculate the high divorce rate in marriages with heavy-drinking wives may be due to a number of things, including the wife’s typical role as homemaker and caretaker, and social intolerance of females imbibing.

Whatever the reasons behind the statistics that will no doubt cause a flurry of social commentary on both sides, it is clear Western society cannot keep it’s cool around alcohol.

What’s Love (and Gender) Got to Do With It?

Most people think single people consume more alcohol than married people, but it turns out that is only partially correct. The variables involved are gender and marital status.

Sociologists gathered research from 5,305 men and women from Wisconsin between the years 1993 and 2004, and found a number of surprising results:

  • Married women drink more than single women, widows, and married men. Researchers believe this is for two reasons: 1) Single women tend to drink less than single men; 2) Married men drink less because they traded drinking buddies for a wife, and as a result the wife tends to drink more than she did previously.
  • Divorced men drink significantly more after divorce than women. Researchers contribute this to the fact that men tend to externalize stress (like binge drinking), while women internalize the stress (usually by falling into depression).

The liquid in those bottles you have under lock and key, or way up high in the cabinet, can cause so much more than social lubrication and relaxation after a hard day’s work. However, alcohol consumption is a personal choice, and a part of a person’s lifestyle; so we ask Swedish researchers, is it really big news that an alcohol abstainer and an “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” believer have a hard time making their marriage work?

North Dakota’s Divorce Bill Revisited

North Dakota divorceDivorce is a hot topic in any society because it involves family values, religion, and personal beliefs. Some people find divorce a non-option, while others view is as a sign of an evolved society. Divorce is, however, as personal a choice as religion; therefore, it should be left for the individual to decide on. But apparently, some North Dakota senators haven’t received that memo about free will.

The Original Senate Bill 2367

The good people of North Dakota dodged a legislative bullet in 2011 when Senate Bill 2367 was rejected. Bill 2367 was brought to the Senate by Senators Larsen, Sitte, and Wanzek, and supported by Representatives Grande, Koppelman, and Ruby. The bill originally recommended a two-fold change in North Dakota divorces with children involved:

  1. Extend the waiting period to 1 year, which would mean spouses would have to wait 1 year after filing for divorce before continuing the divorce process. If there is “substantiated allegations of domestic abuse,” the waiting period may be waived.
  2. Instate mandatory marital counseling of 10 hours, which must be provided by the spouses themselves. The spouses may undergo marital counseling together or separately as long as the sessions are with a “paid or volunteer counselor, clergy member, or any state-certified or licensed marriage mediator.” Four sessions must focus on post-marital finances.

The bill was rejected by the Senate, but was allowed to be revised into “[a] bill to provide for legislative management study relating to divorce reform and education.” In other words, instead of letting the unwanted bill die in the Senate, the Senators decided to turn it into an opportunity to study divorce on children in North Dakota.

Recently, a revised Senate Bill 2367 has found its way back into the Senate and currently awaits deliberation.

Is the New Senate Bill 2367 Good Enough?

The new Senate Bill 2367 has one major revision, but will it be enough to pass the Senate? The revised bill cut the proposed waiting period in half, so now spouses with children seeking a divorce only have to wait 6 months to finalize the divorce after filing the divorce petition. The spouses must still go through 10 hours of marital counseling, and pay for it out of pocket. However, if there is “substantiated” domestic violence in the marriage, the waiting period is waived.

The downsized waiting period is a step in the right direction, but there are still a number of vaguely written sand traps waiting for unsuspecting divorcees to fall right into.

  1. What constitutes a “substantiated allegation”? Sure, if one was a victim of domestic violence and they went to the hospital for treatment, they could use hospital records as evidence or proof; if the victim called the police, they could use the police report or 911 call transcript. But not many victims seek medical attention or help. In fact, it’s estimated only about 25% of domestic violence incidents are reported or documented. Before this bill is passed, it should be clear what constitutes a “substantiated allegation.” If this vagueness is overlooked, the state of North Dakota could be sentencing a victim of domestic violence to 6 months of torment and fear.
  2. Marital counseling is expensive, and not available to everyone. The average cost of marital counseling is $100, and that’s per hour. $100 is a conservative price for counseling, which would bring the (conservative) cost of North Dakota divorce to an additional $600. It’s commendable the authors of Bill 2367 recognized the cost of this additional legislation and noted the counselor could be a “paid or volunteer counselor” or “clergyman.” However, the additional cost makes divorce out of low-income spouses’ reach; does that sound like a violation of civil rights to anyone else?
  3. A bill for the children should think of the children. Senate Bill 2367 was drafted out of regard and in consideration of the children of divorce. But I ask the authors if forcing parents, who clearly want a divorce, to continue to be married is beneficial for the children. Court-administered co-parenting classes would be a better option of looking out for the children of divorce than making the children live in a toxic, stressful home.

Have anything to contribute to the discussion of North Dakota’s Senate Bill 2367? We’re all ears (or eyes, since this a written medium).

V. Day D. Day

divorce on valentine's dayThe colors red and pink are smeared over every store in America right now, and the reason is Valentine’s Day. The sticky sweet quasi-holiday may be making you see red, but chances are if you’re recently divorced, February 14th will also make you blue before the clock strikes 12 p.m. It would be one thing if Valentine’s Day was a real holiday warranting paid time off, but it’s not.

Where did this rogue holiday come from and what can we do about it? We’re glad you asked.

Origins of a Quasi-Holiday

As it turns out, we know who to blame for Valentine’s Day, but we’re not sure about how the holiday came about. There are a few theories, though.

Theory #1: First is an renegade priest by the name of Valentine who lived during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, circa 278 A.D. Claudius II made a decree prohibiting young soldiers from marrying, because it was believed unmarried soldiers were more fearless than married soldiers. However, the priest Valentine defied this decree and performed secret marriages for young soldiers. Emperor Claudius II finally caught Valentine and executed him for his defiance; Valentine died for his religious beliefs and was martyred as St. Valentine on February 14th.

Theory #2: The second version of the story piggybacks on the first version. Valentine was a priest caught helping Christians escape persecution during Claudius II’s reign. Valentine was imprisoned, where he either:

  1. fell in love with the jailor’s daughter
  2. formed a strong friendship with the jailor’s daughter
  3. cured the jailor’s daughter’s blindness, or
  4. a combination of 1, 2, and 3

Then, on the eve of Valentine’s execution, he wrote a note to the jailor’s daughter and signed it “From Your Valentine.” And thus a tradition of professing love and sending valentines was created.

The Valentine’s Day Effect

Today, Valentine’s Day has a number of celebratory traditions various people follow, including the newest Valentine’s Day tradition of divorce. Avvo.com, a website that matches users with attorneys, reported divorce searches on their website goes up 40% around Valentine’s Day. The Valentine’s Effect is a yearly tradition observed by divorce attorneys, but this year a few lawyers have decided to celebrate in a new way.

A New Perspective on Valentine’s Day

Michigan attorney Walter Bentley III has offered a free divorce to the person/couple with the best story for Valentine’s Day. Bentley is a lawyer and an adjunct professor of law at the University of Phoenix. Bentley got the idea to offer divorce as a Valentine’s Day gift when one of his law students invited him to their divorce party. Bentley is quoted saying, “Hey, why not help someone move on to that independence on Valentine’s Day?”

And why not indeed. Bentley’s free-divorce contest concluded yesterday, and it’s reported he received about 500 applicants. If any readers are currently seeking a divorce, we’re sorry to report they missed Bentley’s free-divorce offer, but despair not. There are a variety of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a party of one. Make February 14th a celebration of you by making or ordering your favorite foods, renting your favorite movie, go to your favorite place, and indulging in all your other favorite things.

Tell us how you plan to spend this Valentine’s Day as a reclaimed independent person. If you’re a single Valentine’s Day veteran, share you best tips with others.

DOMA & The New Marriage Frontier

supreme court divorce decisionLove, marriage, and matters of the heart are a highly personal matter. However, due to the governmental role in monitoring society’s well being and maintaining a census, marriage (and subsequently love and matters of the heart) are of governmental and federal concern. Currently, the Third Section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is being challenged as unconstitutional. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. will be spearheading the Supreme Court case of the United States v. Windsor, which is scheduled to begin on March 27th.

DOMA Then

In 1996 the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed, and unleashed a fervor of debate throughout America that has lasted even until today. DOMA defined and solidified “marriage” as a union solely between a man and a woman. DOMA has a two-pronged approach: First, it does not legally recognize same-sex marriages, and secondly, it allows each state to either recognize or not recognize same-sex marriages as well.

The ratification of DOMA means the federal government cannot legally recognize same-sex marriages, and consequently denies legally married same-sex couples federal benefits, like survivorship. Survivorship allows married couples to pass ownership of property and benefits of a deceased spouse to their surviving spouse.

Unconstitutionality

In 2011, the Obama administration made a policy decision to no longer protect DOMA’s constitutionality in court because “. . . this discrimination cannot be justified as substantially furthering any important governmental interest . . .” According to the General Solicitor Verrilli Jr.’s case, DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause that states “all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.”

DOMA is challenged by Edith Windsor, a woman 83 years old. Edith Windsor was married to Thea Spyer, after a 40 year engagement, in 2007. Two years later in 2009, Ms. Spyer died and left her estate to her spouse, Ms. Windsor. Due to DOMA, Ms. Windsor has spent $600,000 to pay state and federal taxes on the estate left to her by Ms. Spyer. So in 2012, Ms. Windsor mounted a mission to strike DOMA from federal and state law, and that journey has brought about the case of the United States v. Windsor.

DOMA Now

Earlier this month on February 19th, journalist Jonathan Capehart published an article, “Americans are done with DOMA,” in the Washington Post discussing the recent poll findings about the American public’s position on DOMA. The poll, held by The Respect for Marriage Coalition, found that 75% of voters believe same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right.

This belief is held across political party lines. 91% of Democrats, 75% of Independents, and 56% of Republicans support the idea that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right. Furthermore, the poll discovered that 83% of the American public, regardless of personal opinion, believes same-sex marriage will be nationally legal in the next 5 to 10 years; 77% of the American public believes same-sex marriage will be nationally legal in the next couple of years.

The purpose of Capehart’s article is to bring to light how Americans of all political affiliation are seemingly aware of the discriminatory nature of DOMA, and have accepted the place same-sex marriage has in society, whether or not they personally agree with homosexuality. Capehart’s article brings up the point that people are aware that because a law or life choice exists, opponents can peacefully coexist as non-participants.

What are your thoughts on the DOMA law and the current actions to strike the DOMA’s 3rd Section from federal law?

The Logic Fallacy Behind Iowa’s Divorce Bill

logical fallacy in Iowa divorce billIn the past month, the U.S. has seen some strange marriage and divorce legislative moves from various states. In early February, North Dakota revisited an old House Bill that would force parents to observe a 6 month waiting period and undergo counseling before finalizing the divorce. The bill had been introduced a year earlier, but it was rejected because it originally had a year waiting period.

Apparently the divorce reform is an infectious virus, and Iowa has got it bad.

The Latest Divorce and Religion Study

researchers study divorce and religionAs Sinatra crooned into the microphone all those years ago, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage; divorce, however, rides on the back of the carriage like a footman. This sinister footman has been the topic of debate since the 1970′s saw a huge surge in divorce, and now that debate has moved onto the relationship divorce has with religion.

Previously, research held that children of divorced parents were less religious in adulthood because of the divorce. But what about all the other contributing factors in a person’s religious beliefs? This is the question Jeremy Uecker, an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor, and Christopher Ellison, a researcher at University of Texas, asked in their study called “Parental Divorce, Parental Religious Characteristics, and Religious Outcomes in Adulthood.”

Structure of the Study

The study used data from surveys from 1991, 1998, and 2008 catalogued in the General Social Surveys. The surveys were conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. 3,346 people of various faiths, between the ages 18 and 87 answered questions about their family life, religious affiliation, and personal beliefs.

After Ellison analyzed the data, Uecker analyzed the answers to the survey. The team found children of divorce do tend to avoid organized religion, but the cause may be more attributed to their parent’s pre-existing religious beliefs and practices rather than solely their parent’s divorce.

The Findings

“You have to take into account the context,” Uecker explains. “People who are less religious are more likely to get divorced. And if the parents are of different religions or differing levels of religiosity from one another, they also are more likely to divorce. So if we ignore that, we’re overstating the effects of divorce itself on religious outcomes.”

As support for Uecker and Ellison’s findings, the data proves divorce has no effect on a person’s spirituality and private religious practices, like praying.

What it All Means

As noted in the study, the majority of young adults today identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” We’re not entirely sure what that means to each individual, but it does indicate the majority of people are not spiritually destroyed by their parents divorce. According to the researchers, the leading cause of children losing their faiths is the loss of religious socialization.

After a divorce, single parents may feel unaccepted in church, so attendance drops; or, it may be as simple as a single parent’s schedule makes it harder to attend church regularly. Whatever the case, the researchers are not concerned about the children’s well-being.

In the study, the researchers state: “The emotional effects or feelings of sacred loss may well be felt and consequential during childhood and adolescence. In the long run, however, these emotional responses are less consequential.”

The relationship between humans and their beliefs is a truly complex one, which Ellison and Uecker sought to bring to light. This study is not meant to alter our perception of divorce and religion, it is just meant to correct another study’s published findings.

What are your thoughts on the complex relationship marriage, divorce, and religion?

Parenting Teens After Divorce, Step 1: Laying the Foundation

78430272Like any great relationship and house, you must lay down a solid foundation for your teen’s life after a divorce. The way you approach the divorce, and talk about the divorce lays the foundation for your teen’s post-divorce life. If the divorce is a heated battle, your teen’s life will be more akin to a WWII trench than, say, a mall or movie theater. While you might scoff at the idea of NOT having a heated divorce, making sure your child remains intact is nothing to even sniff at.

So how exactly do you lay the foundation for a strong life post-divorce, and foster stellar communication with your teen? In three easy, communication-based ways. There may only be three to discuss, but they require some explaining, so we’ll tackle them one at a time.

#1: Loose the poker face.

Most parents (divorced or not) fall prey to their fears of losing control of their teen, so the communication becomes very stiff and awkward. Parents want to have open, honest conversations with their teens, but cannot reciprocate the type of communication they are asking to receive.

We are not saying all parents consistently lie to their teens, but most parents cannot seem to share their feelings and thoughts with their teens. The reason, we suspect, is that parenthood is such new territory at every step of the way, parents cling to the authority role with their teens for dear life. Consequently, the parent misses out on candidly bonding with their teen out of fear of losing respect and control.

However, what parents are really doing by parenting with a poker face is distancing their teen. All children (no matter age) learn by example from their parents. So if you’re withholding and resistant to sharing information and feelings, so will your teen.

How to Lose the Poker Face

We know, nothing in life is easy, but here are a few pointers on improving the communication lines between you and your teen:

  • Firstly, when it comes to divorce, know what is and isn’t fair game to talk about. You can share that you are feeling hurt and/or angry, but you should emphasize the feelings about the divorce is ONLY between you and your ex-spouse.
  • Never bad-mouth your ex in front of your child.
  • Enter a conversation willing to listen and understand, not scold or become offended
  • Know and watch for signs of your teen being uncomfortable or shutting down. Once you spot these, its time to halt the conversation and take a breather. You can always pick it up later.

Parenting Teens After Divorce, Step 3: Preserve Childhood

89585334We’ve come to our last tutorial on parenting teenagers through a divorce, and we’ve saved the best for last. Step 1 was about establishing a strong communication line between you and your teen, and Step 2 was about effective parenting during the teen years. Step 3 is all about focusing on you, so you can let your child have their childhood. At first this might seem like an direct paradox, but hear us out and all will be clear.

#3: Let Them Be Young

During and after a divorce, a parent may be experiencing such a horrible time that their child steps up and becomes caretaker, confidant, and, inadvertently, co-parent. This phenomenon has been labeled as parentified children, which basically describes a child who has assumed parental duties at a young age. The most common example of parentified children are the eldest children of large families. These children are often called upon to be mommy’s or daddy’s little helper with wrangling their younger siblings, but its a slippery slope to taking on parental duties, cleaning duties, and eventually running the household.

In divorce, children (including teens) can become parentified children if their parent is perceived to be overburdened and so distraught they cannot function without help. Divorce marks a devastating time in any spouse’s life, but if there are children involved the parents must try to avoid casting their child in a caretaker role. It can be tempting to view your new familial situation as you and your child against the world, but be careful of stripping your child of their childhood.

How to Preserve Childhood

We don’t mean to scare parents into keeping their distance from their children, we just want parents to be aware of the consequences of their actions. There are a few ways to be emotionally close with your child, have great communication, and not parentify your child. Let us show you how:

  • Don’t talk to your teen like you would your friend. You and your teen can be friends, but know the difference between the two relationships. For example, with your friend you would vent about your ex, your feeling of despair, and your deep insecurities and doubts. With your child you can convey your feelings, but you shouldn’t ever bad-mouth your ex (their parent) or put doubt in their mind about your ability to keep it together. Doing those things would only trigger anxiety within your teen and trigger parentification.

  • Don’t make your teen the middleman between you and your spouse. This essentially forces your teen to play diplomat to two feuding countries. It will also put your teen in the awkward position of having to choose between their parents. If you had two children, would you want them to make you choose who you loved more? No. So don’t reverse the role on your child.

  • Don’t make your teen the sole source of your life and happiness. It places a great burden and responsibility on them, makes them miss out on activities, and it will leave you unsatisfied. Find something you can do alone for you; become a hiking fanatic, join a book club, or take up a new hobby. Keep yourself balanced, and you’ll bring balance to your household.

A Little Lesson About Taxes and Divorce

200264112-001Oh, tax season. The time of year when you can hear the clickety-clack of calculator buttons, and smell the nervous sweat on men and women alike. The only thing that could improve this glorious season is divorce.

…Said no one ever, not even tax specialists. In fact, the only thing that makes tax season worse is divorce (or is it the other way around?). But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, taxes can still be relatively simple as long as you know the basics. Where divorce is concerned, the tax basics are: deciding on a filing status, navigating the exemptions, and figuring out the tax refund.

Find Your Filing Status

Filing statuses are fairly cut and dry, so there isn’t too much confusion or misinformation about how to file your taxes. However, there are a few options available to couples who are separating or staying together.

Generally, a person’s legal filing status goes by what their status was at the end of the tax year. If you were legally divorced, or legally separated by or on December 31st, 2012, or living separate and apart for the last 6 months of 2012, then you will file as single or head of household. If you were still legally married by or on December 31st, 2012, then you will file as married.

However, married couples do have the option of filing taxes together or separately. So if you were still legally married by December 31st, and your and your soon-to-be-ex don’t want to file together, you may file as “married filing separately.” Just note that by opting to file married but separately, you are opting out of the tax benefits of filing as married; so if you and your spouse can tolerate each other it might be beneficial to give filing taxes together one more go.

Catch a Tax Break or Exemption

The most common and plentiful tax exemptions are for married couples with children; and the most common misconception divorced couples have about taxes is that they can both take exemptions for the child. Divorced couples can divide the exemptions, but there cannot be two people claiming exemptions for one child.

Most couples choose to alternate years claiming the children on their taxes. For example, the mother would claim the children on even years, and the father would claim the children on odd years. However, the parent with primary custody of the child usually claims the child every year. If the other parent pays for the child’s medical expenses, that parent may take those deductions.

Just as a little disclaimer, one child expense that is not tax deductible is child support. The parent paying the child support cannot take deductions for the payments made because child support is considered tax neutral.

The Tax Refund Raffle

That night, after filing taxes, everyone goes to bed with dreams of a big, fat tax refund dancing through their mind. Divorce does not dissuade this pipe dream of swimming in your tax refund, but here are ways to increase your little neat refund pile. As tax refunds go, married people with children they can claim as dependents have it pretty good.

As a divorcee, you may be hanging your head, but don’t despair for too long. Divorcees can get better tax refunds if they pay alimony, if they can claim any children as dependents, and more.

Have any more pressing tax questions? Leave a comment below and we’ll get to the bottom of it for you.

Nesting Into Divorce

Nesting child custody methodDivorce may not seem like something that can evolve, but attitudes towards divorce and divorce practices are evolving. A prime example of divorce evolution is collaborative divorce, which only become a practice around the 1980′s. Well, prepare yourself for the latest stage of divorce evolution, called “nesting.”

Nesting is a child custody plan that allows the children of divorce to stay in the same house, while the parents are the ones who shuttle back and forth. Nesting requires three houses: one where the children live, one where the father lives, and one where the mother lives. The idea is to allow the children to continuously live in one home to lessen the negative impact of divorce.

A Child Custody By Many Other Names

Just to add a little more confusion into the mix, nesting is known by a few other names. However, nesting (aka aparenting, aka birdnesting, aka kids stay) is a fairly simple custody method; just think of nesting as an extreme version of joint custody.

Basically, the parents each rent an apartment or place of their own, but keep the house they lived in together during the marriage. The parents create a schedule to decide which parent stays in the house with the children for a certain amount of time. A common nesting schedule alternates the parents in the house with the children weekly or bi-weekly.

Three Homes, Two Parents, One Big Problem?

While nesting might seem like a viable option only for Birkenstock-wearing, granola-eating, peace-talking divorcees, nesting is touted to be a viable option for anyone who can manage to put the kids first. However, nesting should only be used in cases that are completely without any kind of abuse (emotional, sexual, physical).

Still nervous about the thought of having to share a common dwelling with your ex-spouse? Yeah, we totally understand that, but everyone who has successfully used nesting as a custody method gives the same advice: Just step up.

Easier Said…

The most annoying direction is probably “Don’t try, just do.” Hearing this may make your blood boil, but just think about the empowering message hidden in the condescending package. In the context of divorce, just doing it and taking each day one at a time is basically all any divorcee can do.

So the “Just step up” argument for nesting is really not so offensive or blood-boiling, especially when the pay-off is emotionally stable children.

Is Nesting That Beneficial?

While the downside to nesting includes living in a home that smacks of your ex, and having to maintain two houses, the upside appears to easily outweigh the negatives.

Firstly, just the fact that the children aren’t expected to be on the ones dividing their time and love is a giant bonus. All the negative impacts (being put in the middle, feeling unstable and uprooted, being confused about the physical family structure, feeling uncomfortable and unaccommodated in their parents’ new spaces, etc.) divorce is said to have on children would be a lot less of an issue just by trying the nesting method.

Secondly, the parents would have to come to terms with being forever connected sooner rather than later. Since this is the main hang-up for parents after divorce, nesting essentially forces them to be the adult and deal with it, and fast.

Thirdly, nesting doesn’t have to be permanent and allows the family to take their time in deciding how to handle the divorce. Nesting could be used as a transition parenting plan, it could be temporary, or it could be permanent. Nesting allows the family to avoid making rushed, emotion-based decisions.

What do you think about nesting? Does it give you the heebie-jeebies, or does it peak your interest?