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Divorce by Texting?

photo by DavidErickson via PhotoRee

According to Time Magazine’s Hillary Brenhouse, it is no longer permissible in Tajikistan to divorce your wife by sending her a text message. In some traditions of Sunni Islam a divorce can be granted by uttering the “triple talaq,” which simply means the husband repeats the words: “I divorce you” three times. Apparently, Tajik men working abroad found that texting the  triple talaq was just as effective, and much more convenient.

However, the sense that that this shortcut was just a bit too easy has been growing. Abdurakhim Kholikov, the head of the state religious affairs committee, issued a statement that delivering the coup de grace to a marriage by SMS was a breach of Islamic law, and plans to outlaw it entirely. In a nation where most marriages do not appear in the official records anyway, the talaq was a mere formality.

In other nations the triple talaq must usually be accompanied by arbitration and reconciliation. The practice had already been regulated or banned in Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Of course, in the US, divorce has never been so simple – or so arbitrary.

Read the article here.

What Divorce Means to Children

Divorce is not an isolated event.  Dissolving a marriage is a lengthy process, not so much in terms of the law, but in terms of the emotional realities.  Time is longer for children than for adults.  If you’re only six, two years represents a third of your life.  If you’re thirty, it represents a much smaller fraction of your life.  If you think divorce is a big event in your life, consider your children.  The trauma they experience is magnified a hundred times.

You shouldn’t be surprised then, when your children oppose the divorce.  With rare exceptions, they will.  It doesn’t matter whether or not your marriage is a bleak affair.  Children do not want to lose  a parent.

The first great conflict in every infant’s life is the one between trust and mistrust.  If a child is cared for and held and talked to, and if his cries receive a response, he will begin to achieve a sense of security that will undergird everything else that happens in his life thereafter. To be impaired at this level is to be virtually cut off from life.

Divorce and its attendant trauma shake a child’s sense of trust and security as almost nothing else can. Parents need to be particularly sensitive to this critical element, and to do everything within their power to reassure their children and to assist them through the trauma of divorce.

In addition, children are readily bewildered because of their limited ability to conceptualize things.  They think in concrete terms.  It does little good, for example, to say that his or her grandparents live on a farm.  A child has to be taken to a farm and shown, firsthand, what it is like.

It is essential that you take your children to inspect your newly departed spouse’s new quarters. If you are the scorned wife of a man who has left you for another woman (or vice versa) this will be extraordinarily difficult. You are simultaneously furious at the betrayal and powerless to do anything about it. The children may be, in your tormented mind, the only vehicle at your disposal with which to punish him (or her). So, you are inclined to adduce more or less reasonable-sounding arguments to show why the children ought not to have anything to do with their other parent. And they certainly should never set foot in that den of iniquity he is living now — right?  Wrong. Children don’t know what a divorce means. They have to be shown everything. They have to be taken to see the absent parent’s new quarters. Only what they are already familiar with may be talked about. Everything else has to be shown.

Children In Divorce

One day I decided to indulge myself in a personalized license plate frame for my car. A salesman explained to me how much room I could use for whatever sentiment I wanted to express to fellow drivers. I chose, ‘No Court Divorce. Where the child comes first.’ That phrase has, over the years of my practice, become my professional motto.

When couples start having trouble in their marriages, the emotional impact is so great that the children and their needs seem to go into eclipse. Sometimes things are so disrupted for a season that children no older than nine or ten find themselves taking care of a distraught parent. No dependent child should ever, under any circumstances, have to take care of a parent.

I learned about the problems of children in divorce gradually and haphazardly as my law practice grew. My perspective was limited until I attended a seminar conducted by Judith Wallerstein in the early eighties. Through her influence, I began to see the bigger picture of what actually happens in the homes of the people who are my clients. Her book Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope With Divorce, coauthored with Joan Berlin Kelly, is a landmark.

There is nothing a divorcing parent – or any parent, for that matter – can do to shield a child completely from pain or injury. But there is a lot parents can learn that will keep them from contributing to the child’s pain and injury. And every parent can learn to help a child deal with pain appropriately and to grow through it to great maturity.

One of the ways parents can help their children is by having a peaceful divorce.  Collaborative divorce uses licensed therapists as divorce coaches to help couples deal with the emotional divorce, so that their children don’t have to.  Each spouse has their own coach who will help them examine and understand their feelings and assist with face-to-face meetings with the other spouse.  The coach helps the client state their needs and desires in ways that make them easier for their partner to hear.  The coach helps divorcing couples to understand and suitably respond to each other’s needs and desires, process and express difficult feelings,  identify and appropriately respond to triggers that may derail communication and they assist the entire family in processing the changes inherent in a divorce. The divorce coach helps the children by helping the parents work together effectively to plan the family’s future.  They help the attorneys work together productively, and help the parties achieve a divorce settlement that is fair, fast and economical.

When divorcing couples negotiate amicably, communicate effectively and co-parent peacefully, their children will thrive. Divorce is painful, but it doesn’t have to leave scars.