Court Ordered Pause

English: High Court of Australia

Brock and I were in the car the other day when an ad came on the radio for a local divorce attorney (these have increased lately – I guess there is some truth to this being “divorce season”).

I barely registered the ad, but apparently Brock was listening.

When the ad came to an end, he turned to me and said, “I think there should be a mandatory six month waiting period for divorce.”

(Note: I know some states currently have a waiting period; Georgia is not one of them.)

I was shocked. Not at the thought, but at the subject matter. Contrary to what you may think, I rarely discuss divorce in my personal life.

My first reaction to his statement was a sense of comfort. I want to marry a guy that thinks divorce should not be a quick and easy solution. I want to marry a guy that doesn’t have a propensity to run away from a challenge. I want to marry a guy that wants to be married.

But it’s not always that simple.

“In most cases I agree with you,” I said, “But in my situation or in cases of abuse, that would have been an additional assault by the courts. It would have left me open to more financial harm while I waited on the calendar.”

I continued, explaining my thoughts on the issue. I like the idea of a mandatory waiting period, be it six or twelve months. It gives both parties the gift of time. Time for counseling. Time to think through the consequences of a major decision. Time to work out the details of the separation of two lives. Ideally, this would be done prior to the decision to split, but we know that is not always the case.

I also think there needs to be an exception. In cases of abuse or abandonment, a waiting period only prolongs the agony and allows more harm to occur. I think there should be a process (that does not require excessive court fees) where the abused or abandoned spouse can appeal for the wait period to be lifted.

But then there is another part of me that thinks it is none of the state’s business. That I should be allowed to marry and divorce without their approval. Is this a slippery slope issue that could lead to more government control or is it a mandate that would help to preserve the family structure?

I would love to hear from all of you. Do you live in a state with a mandatory wait period? How did that affect you?

Do you agree with a wait period? If so, how long? Would you want exceptions?

Follow Up – Court Ordered Pause: Part Two

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41 thoughts on “Court Ordered Pause

  1. I agree with what you say about abuse in a marriage requiring a different approach. Delay could simply prolong a potentially dangerous situation. I get the idea behind waiting but I’m not sure anyone rushes to get divorced. I think in general it is the last resort after a lengthy period of things going steadily downhill. Interesting post!

  2. I wish it were that easy and idealistic to have a waiting period. But when I found out about my husband’s affair, he agreed to go to counseling, but lied and plotted, and continued to see and spend money on the other woman. I figured it out pretty quickly thankfully and filed for divorce. I was fortunate that he did not bury me in financial debt like you since the judge froze all his accounts quickly.. There would have to be an exception that could easily and quickly happen in these circumstances.

    1. I agree that a waiting period only allows more harm when you have a spouse that is intent on destruction. That’s awesome that the judge moved to protect you financially. I wish that all courts were as tuned in to criminal behaviors in the civil system.

  3. I think we are mandated enough by our government on the things we can or cannot do. Marriage is supposed to be for life, but when one of those two people can’t seem to see it that way why should both people be unhappy in what apparently is not going ot work for whatever reason. I am currently pushing my wife to start the process for the divorce. If she wanted to leave me for another man, I really don’t want her to come back. I am not sure my son and I could handle a 6 month waiting period and then another 2-3 months of paperwork and court processes.

  4. If you put it on the back end of a marriage, why not establish a waiting period on the front end of a marriage, and on and on? Just too arbitrary. The spirit of the idea is great, and you’re correct, it’s none of the state’s business.

  5. We have a 3 month “wait period” in CT, which meant that we could only get a court date 3 months after filing the initial papers. But since we did mediation those 3 months were filled with meetings with our lawyer to complete the separation agreement so we only went to court once and were done. And there is nothing that says you have to go to counseling during those months, he had even moved out before filing papers…

    1. Three months seems pretty arbitrary. I don’t think the process could even be completed before that. I wonder if that is simply so the politicians can claim that they support families and marriage? It’s interesting how much variation there is.

      1. I know, 3 months was almost to short for us to finish all the discussions and to come to an agreement. For me it worked out in my favor, he wanted the divorce so badly that when the court date was approaching he agree to some things that he might not have done if we didn’t have a date (he applied for the court date I think about the same time that he filed for divorce). He did not want to postpone…

  6. Canuck here, living in Ontario.

    We do not have a “mandatory” waiting period although it is tough to get a capital “D” divorce before 12 months. It can be done but it requires $, not contest & a judge who thinks this is the right thing to do. Kids complicate things immensely.

    Instead, we get “seperated”. Seperation is just as legal as divorce in almost every way. Once a seperation date is established, well, that’s the date which all financial & property decisions are made. Let’s say you land a wicked raise a month after that date… Your former partner has no claim on a portion of that money (except in rare circumstances). Alternatively, if you run up your credit card after that date, it’s YOURS problem., not your ex’s.

    It’s a pretty good set up. It protects both parties while allowing them to get on with their lives.

    Here, there are only two reasons to get officially, legally divorced: the need for closure and the desire to remarry. I guess a third reason would be spite. My ex & I are seperated but I am still covered by her benefits at work. That could become a sore spot for her & Divorce would end it.

    I think a waiting period can be a very good thing. Abuse & abandonment are perfect reasons why it should NOT be automatically mandatory. Every case is as individual as the people involved.

    1. Steve, my fellow-Ontarian, you have described my situation exactly. I ex and I separated last summer. The only official thing we’ve done is sell our house, and go to our bank together and divide the funds. Neither of us wants to use our hard-earned money paying a lawyer, so as long as things stay civilized, we will continue to manage our separated lives based on what makes sense. A few people have asked why we’re not getting divorced and I think the truth is we’re just kind of indifferent to the idea.

      1. I know another couple who are going down a similar path as yours. They simply came to the conclusion that they would both be happier apart. They’re being very civil with each other, both love their 3yr old to bits. No need for court proceedings to get in the way.

        If the time comes when you want a Divorce, I strongky recommend you both find lawyers who practice “Collaborative Family Law”. It will save a lot of $, time & hardship.

  7. In Maine there isn’t a waiting period, things moved pretty quickly, I filed in April and it was done by July. It would be interesting to see in states that have a waiting period, how many marriages have been “saved”. Or to know how many people live with abuse and in fear and stay married because of what will happen to them if they declare they want a divorce and then have to wait 6 months to be able to escape.
    As usual, the government really only takes into account “normal” people when they make these rules.
    I think a waiting period for people to get married makes a hell of a lot more sense then a waiting period to get divorced.

  8. Like The Edmonton Tourist, I live in Alberta. Normally it does take about two years here but there are exceptions made for “cruelty.” Thankfully this made it possible for me to divorce my abusive husband very quickly. I filed in mid-Sept, the preliminary divorce was granted in early Dec and it was then finalized in early Jan. – less than four months. In my situation, any kind of “waiting period” would have been punitive – he was trying to bankrupt me with excessive communications to my lawyer and he also demanded an unreasonable financial settlement that he knew I couldn’t produce without selling everything – I brought almost all of the major assets into the marriage. I had to call the police because he started sending death threats and I even considered moving and changing my name. I was worried that he might continue to escalate but once the divorce was finished he gradually backed off and I haven’t heard from him for about six months now. So for me, a fast divorce was invaluable.

    I can see the value in a waiting period, particularly when children are involved but there always has to be room for exceptions, also when children are involved. I have to agree with lookingforward that a waiting period to get married makes much more sense.

    1. I’m glad to hear they have an exception and that you were able to fast track your divorce. It seems like mandatory waiting periods without an “out” are just allowing the abuser to continue unabated.

    2. 28 years ago, my mother used the “cruelty” loophole to divorce my father and marry her affair partner. My dad is a decent, compassionate man who did not deserve this, but he signed an agreement stating he had been cruel, just to let her go and live her life. Her second marriage didn’t last long. He remarried a good, committed woman about 13 years ago.

      1. So sorry to hear about what happened to your dad. It’s unfortunately true that some people can take advantage of anything. In my case, however, “cruelty” was a lifesaver, not a loophole. My ex-husband is neither decent nor compassionate – he is in fact a parasite who deserved to be divorced on those grounds.

        1. Yes, it is a good thing you had that option available to you. I think in the long run, it all worked out for my dad, too and fortunately he knew it was in his interests to let her go. Best of luck to you!

  9. California has a 6 month waiting period. It was really annoying because it delayed the closure; my ex and I split up amicably so no real reprecussions, but it really irked me that we had to not only get permission to break up but had to wait 6 months to do it. I think if they are going to have a waiting period for divorce, there should be the same one for marriage. (In California you can get married the same day you apply for a marriage license.)

  10. My reply might be out of context here since it concerns the divorce proceedings in India but I thought it would answer your question of whether the waiting period is necessary.
    In India we have different waiting periods for different divorce cases and trust me it is grueling and abusive in each one of the cases. For example, in mutually consented divorce cases you have a 6 month waiting period and in contested cases especially those of abuse and violence you cannot file before you reach the first anniversary of your marriage and then wait another year since the date of separation.
    These are the waiting periods for technical issues, after this comes the mandatory waiting periods. The parties are made to wait for one month after every counseling session and another one month after passing of the order for spousal maintenance then another three months after the decree of divorce before you can even think of getting married again. So by the time you get your divorce at least 2-3 years would have passed since the separation and by then the bitterness and acrimony is overflowing to such an extent that it becomes difficult for many to put it behind them and move forward in life.
    In the last few months I have been trying my best to maintain my cool through the court proceedings but they are a second assault which leaves many exhausted. Even though I agree that divorce should not be a quick and easy solution but in some cases it should be left to the parties to decide whether they require a waiting period especially when one of them has been abused.

    1. Not out of context at all – thank you for sharing. That seems absolutely backwards that the process is prolonged in cases of abuse. My thoughts are with you as you move through the process.

  11. As Sierra says, California has the mandatory 6-months, which is really annoying. I don’t understand the point, esp if there are no kids involved, which was the case with my first divorce. It just made no sense at all. Anyway, the economy is picking up and therefore so are divorces, which are expensive, as we know.

  12. Twelve month wait period in Australia for divorce. Property settlement is separate. You can divorce without a property settlement and you can have a property settlement without a divorce.

    1. That’s fascinating to me that they are separate. Here, they are one and the same. In fact, divorces can be long and drawn out due to property negotiations.

      Are custody issues determined with the divorce part?

      1. From a website: mydivorce.com.au

        1. Formal divorce

        Australia adopted a “no fault” divorce and the only grounds for divorce in Australia is the irreparable damage to a marriage, which can only be proven by the spouses living separately for more than 12 months.

        This means, you can be divorced by simply applying to a Court after being separated from your spouse for more than one year. It generally takes 2-4 months to get your divorce hearing and after that, another month for your divorce to become final.

        The “Formal divorce” is the easiest and most straightforward part of the divorce process.

        2. Children orders

        You can agree on “Parenting plan” with your ex-spouse at any time and file to the Court for “Consent orders”. If you cannot agree, then you need to file to Court for children orders.

        Since 2007, the general rule in Australia is that parents have equal rights to care for the children, which often translates into a “week-about” arrangement where the children spend one week with one parent and another week with another parent. It is also common, especially for younger children, to live with the mother and spend every second weekend with the father.

        You can represent yourself in Court applying for children orders, or hire a lawyer, or apply for Legal Aid to provide you with a lawyer.

        “Children orders” can take several months to obtain.

        3. Property settlement

        Property settlement is the most complicated part of the divorce process. You can apply for property settlement orders any time after your separation but it must be done within 12 months since the date of your formal divorce.

        Property settlement and division of assets can take years. Usually in Australia it takes about 2-3 years, unless you agree with your ex-spouse out of Court.

        1. Wow! That sounds complicated. Thanks for the info.

          It sounds like I would have been in limbo for a long time if I was there. You’ve definitely helped put perspective on my 8 months…

          1. Yes, and I think it gets more complicated the longer the marriage – more investments and retirement savings etc
            And the courts have a complicated process of (i) list the assets (ii) value the assets (iii) assess the contribution of both parties (iv) assess future needs of both parties.
            Thanks goodness my husband and I agreed to a fifty fifty split and bypassed all that, (one positive).
            But interestingly, you wrote a post about getting lumbered with some debt unexpectedly some time later ( I am not sure exactly what happened in your case), but your post triggered me to seek legal advice on the wording of the settlement regarding our loans to make sure all those ends were tied up before signing the settlement papers (which incidentally have only just reached stage of final draft, 16 months down).

            1. I’m glad to hear that you were able to modify the wording in the agreement and that the end is in sight.

              My situation was complicated by several factors. My ex committed fraud while we were married but the courts do not consider it fraud if it is against your spouse. He refused contact; the last I ever heard from him was the text message. He refused to produce the requested information and documents by the courts. He made crazy claims during the process- trying to get my retirement and claiming money my grandma gave me in childhood was his contribution to the marriage. I was required to keep him on my health insurance during the divorce and he ran up medical bills he never paid so they came after me. Although the settlement was in my favor, he never followed it. He failed to refi the house and remove my name so I now have a foreclosure. He never paid the taxes, luckily I was granted innocent spouse relief. He never paid me for court and attorney fees, as he was ordered to do. Basically, he walked away from his mess. Also, remember that he had committed felony bigamy along with the other deceptions.

              I was saddled with a very large credit card bill in my name that he used to fund his other life. I had to pay all of the back bills and fees for utilities so that I could move forward. I spent over half my annual income on attorney fees. My credit, once perfect, is now trashed and I’m still trying to rebuild financially. I’ve learned that our civil court system is not equipped to deal with criminals.

              Overall, I’m thankful that I made it out alive. The rest is just money.

              1. Phew, you certainly have been through some mud there! It is certainly not a simple thing, untying the knots. I read somewhere that the first thing you have to come to realise is that marriage is about love, divorce is about money. The trouble is that it takes you a while to actually kick yourself into that frame of thinking because you (ie divorcees) are also going through the grief. I can’t believe that you sorted all that out in eight months. So I find it amazing that you were able to cope so well at the time and have come to such a great place in your life.

  13. I honestly think the solution does not come with making divorce more difficult, I think it should make marriage more difficult. I really, really, really do. Think about all the reasons a person would be in a rush to get married– how many of them are good ones?

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