Which is best, divorce or stay married for the sake of the kids?


Do you think married people should be able to get a divorce if one or both sides no longer love the other even if they have a kid/kids, or if they have a kid/kids they should only be able to get a divorce if there’s violence?


Clearly, there are situations when divorce is not only justified, but necessary to one’s physical or psychological safety. Those are the easy calls.

But what about marriages where there is no physical abuse, no drug or alcohol abuse, no cruelty, infidelity, or abandonment? I know I am in the minority, but after practicing divorce law for 21 years and being a spouse and parent longer than that, I do not believe married people should be allowed to divorce simply because they do not love one another. I see the purpose behind no-fault divorce (no-fault divorce means anyone can divorce without having to prove his/her spouse has committed a “fault” that warrants divorce), but I don’t believe those who passed no-fault divorce laws foresaw the unintended consequences. No-fault divorce has caused too many people to give up on marriage too soon.

I’m not an advocate of “punishing” unhappily married people by forcing them to stay married, I’m just saying that too many people believe the “solution” to being unhappy while married and/or unhappy with the marriage is divorce when divorce is not. Indeed, many people who divorce later realize that they made a mistake.

Divorcing when you have young children is, frankly, often worse for the children than living with parents who don’t like/love each other. The argument that it’s better for children to have their parents divorced and happy instead of married and miserable is not true of every child.

Should divorce be permitted only in cases of physical violence? No. Traditionally, divorce was deemed warranted in the following circumstances (these are the “fault” grounds articulated by Utah law—I practice divorce law in Utah):

  • impotency of the respondent at the time of marriage;
  • adultery committed by the respondent subsequent to marriage;
  • willful desertion of the petitioner by the respondent for more than one year;
  • willful neglect of the respondent to provide for the petitioner the common necessaries of life;
  • habitual drunkenness of the respondent;
  • conviction of the respondent for a felony;
  • cruel treatment of the petitioner by the respondent to the extent of causing bodily injury or great mental distress to the petitioner;
  • irreconcilable differences of the marriage;
  • incurable insanity; or
  • when the husband and wife have lived separately under a decree of separate maintenance of any state for three consecutive years without cohabitation.

There are clearly many good reasons for divorce, and they aren’t limited to domestic violence and adultery (although those have always been good reasons and remain good reasons). It’s hard to say whether the “no-fault divorce” laws are more of a boon than a bane. They’ve clearly helped many people, but they’ve also clearly led to the breakup of marriages and families that could have and should have stayed intact.

Should you stay married for the sake of the kids? Each family’s situation and needs and dynamics are different, but still, in my opinion, if you and your spouse can stay together and be decent to each other until the kids are adults, you will likely do them a tremendous service. Yes, it’s a sacrifice, but one worth making for the sake of your children’s mental, psychological, and emotional well-being not only as kids, but throughout their lives.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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