Wednesday, 7 January 2009

why wait two years?

like julie, my apologies for being a slack poster over the last month or so. part of it has been due to a lovely holiday in the far north, and part due to other pressures. details of both are on my own blog, so i won't bore you all with it here.

one thing that i came across during the holidays is a case where the 2-year separation period before being able to obtain a divorce is causing quite some strife for a woman who is quite keen to cut off all ties with her husband. she caught said husband cheating on her, which on top of some other rather nasty offences (not involving violence, but not nice) convinced her that she wanted nothing more to do with this guy.

i know that the 2-year separation thing is supposed to allow time for couples to reconcile, but two whole years? and what about in this case, where you are absolutely sure you're never going to trust the lying, cheating bastard again, what exactly is the point? surely we can treat adults as being able to make up their own mind and know their own wishes. if they've decided the relationship is over, they shouldn't have to go through such a drawn out process.

and if they do happen to reconcile at a later date, there's nothing to prevent the two of them remarrying, so it just doesn't make sense to me. the woman asked me if there was any way around this, any way that she could get an immediate divorce. i don't know that there is. meanwhile, her spouse is taking the time to phone all of her family friends, begging them to put pressure on her and her family to get her to come back. along with big sob stories about how badly HE has been treated. grrrr. on top of this are the calls from his family to her family and so on. the husband's attitude is that he has 2 years to try to get her back, and is able to use pretty much any and all means to do so. what she wants doesn't apparently have any room in his view of the world.

it's awful when break-ups go badly, and ex-expat's example is another one (a true hero you are for the way you cope with this situation and for the energy you are putting into the Child). i have another friend who has had to deal with all kinds of harassment, including a false accusation that her new partner had molested her daughter and endless drawn out court cases over property settlement. again, she had to wait out the 2-year period before she could remarry, for no good reason that i can see.

i remember another example of a woman having her husband come home and tell her he was leaving to go and live with someone else. he packed his bags and off he went. does anyone really think that some kind of reconciliation is going to happen in this case?

so, is it time for a law change? i'd be interested in hearing what other people think.

18 comments:

backin15 said...

I think you're right, I think there should be an option to end the marriage earlier when the behaviour of one of the former spouses is as bad as you've listed in the examples. Two years as the default with the right for either party to seek an early divorce.

Anonymous said...

In Australia, the wait is only one year after the date of separation.

homepaddock said...

I'm not sure if it's relevant but you can get married with just three days notice (and that can be reduced in special circumstances).

Azlemed said...

my sister has seperated in the last 7 months, hubby was the main person at fault. everything has ben sold and the money sorted out so now she has to wait till july 2010.... it does seem a rather long time, they are not going to reconcile and do not want to. surely there could be a law change that allows for this esp if its a mutual agreement.

David said...

By the time I walked out of the house, with a suitcase that contained my clothes, I knew the marriage was over it had in eality been over for quite some time. Two years is two long especialy if both parties wan out.

Cactus Kate said...

Absolutely. It would cut down the statistics of the number of married men I have been involved with quite dramatically.

Hugh said...

Why not just not get married in the first place?

stargazer said...

i guess because a legal and public commitment still means something to many people. it just shouldn't be so difficult to get out of, once the parties have decided the relationship is over. even if you're not married but living together, there will be (sometimes prolonged and very nasty) cases around custody of any children, and disposition of relationship property. but the 2 year waiting period to actually get your divorce finalised just makes no sense.

Hugh said...

The way I see it, when you get married, you make a bureaucratic procedure an integral part of your happiness. If that bureaucracy turns out to be a constraint on your happiness further down the track, my sympathy is limited, particularly when the only thing you're prevented from doing is getting married again.

stargazer said...

that's not the way a lot of other people see it. making a firm commitment to each other via marriage means a lot more than that to many people. they shouldn't be punished by a 2-year wait just because they believe in the social contract that is marriage.

besides, the issue is not just remarriage. it's also the harassment that can occur because the relationship is not terminated, and one party seems to think that they still have a chance to reconcile.

it's about providing justice for those who do believe in marriage. you may be happy to leave them to their misery because you don't share their beliefs, but that doesn't sit well with me.

M-H said...

I've been thinking about this for a few days. Although I agree that two years seems a long time, I'm not sure that getting divorced per se will either end harassment or give the other party the message that the relationship is ended. People who behave in the way that this man is are not rational; they are out of their minds with grief, anger, resentment, whatever. The law and the legal status of the relationship means nothing to them - as we know from the number of men who kill or attempt to kill their wives, estranged wives or ex-wives.

I'm not sure that the two years is intended to allow couples to reconcile. I think that it's more for them to each come to terms with the ending of their commitment, and also to sort out all the necessary financial and other domestic issues (eg care of children) so that when the divorce comes it really signifies the end of the relationship in a very real way.

And, in the terms of your life of maybe 80 years, two years isn't really that long. Although our separation was extremely un-amicable, my (now late) ex-husband and I didn't divorce for years. We just didn't get round to it. Unless you want to marry someone else, divorce doesn't have to be that important.

Julie said...

I don't know a lot about our divorce laws. If we had a system where-by we had no fault divorce as a default after 2 years separation, but fault divorce sooner, would that create more problems than it solves? I don't know.

I guess the 2 year rule probably comes from a time when even the concept of no fault divorce was difficult for our law makers to accept (or rather, our electorate to accept), and so perhaps the 2 years historically was a bit of a compromise, a sign that they were taking the Institution of Marriage seriously and not allowing people to Throw It All Away lightly?

stargazer said...

i think that's what it is too. but i think we've moved on from there?

but i don't see the point of a "fault divorce" cos the asshole that i originally wrote about is not going to be admitting fault, not ever, not in his lifetime. he's a poor, hard-done-by soul whose wife walked out on him because other people persuaded her to (she doesn't, like, have a mind of her own, don't you know!).

the point is, when one person wants out of the marriage, then that's it. the relationship really is over and there's no point hanging about for two year to make it legally over. in terms of the legal issues (custody, property etc), these can take more than two years to sort out sometimes so it's just such a nonsense amount of time.

Hugh said...

I agree, M-H. I expect the group of ex-husbands committed to harassing and stalking their ex-wives who will cease when a divorce is granted is vanishingly small.

M-H said...

Gosh I feel old... the 2-year rule and no-fault divorce was brought in in the early 1970s. It was a huge step forward. Before that you couldn't end your marriage by mutual consent; one partner had to agree to be found at fault. Commonly this 'fault' would be manufactured by one of the couple pretending to be having an affair and arranging to get caught in flagrante, ie in bed with someone. Usually the man would go to a hotel, pay a woman to visit him there in the morning and arrange for a private detective to find them, or pay one of the staff to give evidence thy had both spent the night there - something like that. Then the wife would sue for divorce on the grounds of his unfaithfulness. It was messy and expensive, and all the details would be published in the papers (a weekly one called "Truth" was bought by many people for no other reason than to see these cases listed), with the name of the third person as the 'co-respondent'.

If there really was a 'fault' in the marriage (eg the husband was beating the wife) it was very difficult for the wife to prove this. And even if she did prove it, there was no automatic entitlement to alimony or any other form of support for her or her children. She had to sue separately for that. To cap it all off, the judge was always free to decide that the facts weren't strong enough and a couple had to stay married.

So, difficult as divorce may be now, please believe me it was much, much worse before we were able to get 'no fault' divorces. I'm not trying to say how awful things were in the olden days, and that you young people have things too easy, but divorce is one thing that is much better and more fair than it was when I was growing up.

Julie said...

Thanks M-H, I had an inkling it was as you portray but wasn't sure. My mum would have got divorced from her first husband under the old rules, and it would have been very difficult if he hadn't basically agreed, even though they had been living apart for some years. I'm not sure what grounds they divorced on, I suspect it was some take on "abandonment", as they were living in different countries at the time so that argument may have been possible? Like many other women before there was no-fault divorce, I suspect Mum might have continued on as a married woman had she not needed a divorce to marry my father. Even when the ex consented it wasn't plain sailing if you got a difficult judge - the woman seeking a divorce ahead of my mother in court was declined because she couldn't recognise her mother-in-law's signature.

M-H said...

From memory abandonment required a very long wait - five years? seven years? Someone else might know. And I think that if there was any hint that the abandoning party had supported the children or made any contact then it wasn't really abandonment. Someone really did have to be at fault. Remember there was virtually no state support for abandoned women or children at that time.

Julie said...

Yep the no state support meant Mum had little choice but to move back to NZ, move back in with her parents, and work full time while her mother (my Nana) looked after my sister. I'm eternally grateful that the DPB, meagre as it is, would give me more choices in her shoes.