When Is It Appropriate to Leave a Marriage if Your Spouse Does Not Contribute Financially or Emotionally and Has No Intention of Doing So Due to a Sense of Entitlement From Their Upbringing?

This is a very hard question to answer honestly and sincerely, though at first blush, it may not appear that way.

There are very good reasons to divorce in certain situations. There are also many convenient excuses people who just don’t want to be in a marriage anymore can give for seeking a divorce.

I am a divorce lawyer, and I hate divorce. I do not want to see people divorce unless they must. And far, far too many people divorce who need not have divorced and should not have divorced.

If we examine this kind of marriage through the lens of a business partnership (i.e., “we’re 50/50 partners”), then one partner is wholly justified in ending and leaving the partnership if the other partner does not do his/her fair share (50%) of the work and make his/her share of the sacrifices necessary to keep the venture afloat and to make it successful.

But marriage is not purely a partnership or quid pro quo but a solemn vow “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death . . . bound to each other through Jesus Christ our Lord, what’s mine is yours”.

The church of which I am a member (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has this statement on divorce on its website:

When men and women marry, they make solemn covenants with each other and with God. Every effort should be made to keep these covenants and preserve marriage. When divorce occurs, individuals have the obligation to forgive, lift, and help rather than to condemn.

This got me to thinking, “If that is true (and I accept it as true), wouldn’t it also be true that we don’t limit forgiveness, support, aid, and not condemning to ex-spouses? Indeed, a marriage in which spouses don’t forgive, lift, help, and not condemn is a marriage that is doomed to failure (whether it ends in divorce, or the couple just stays miserable for life).

The only teaching we have from Jesus himself about divorce is in Matthew 19, and the only ground for divorce he taught there was adultery. I’m no scholar of the scriptures, but I have to believe that adultery cannot be the only ground for divorce. Surely, for example, God does not expect one to stay married to a spouse who physically or sexually abuses him/her and/or the couple’s children, right?

In researching this question, I found this article from enlightening and clarifying on the subject (note: the bold portions are my emphasis, not that of the author):

[From the Catechism] “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, [then] it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.”

This is the first mention of civil law. Civil law is the recourse that citizens have from their government to secure certain legal protections. As we see from the Catechismthose protections can be accessed via civil divorce if they are the “only possible way” of ensuring very specific legal rights. It helps to think of civil divorce as a “protective legal maneuver” rather than an actual severing of marriage. Why? Because Catholics may never use civil divorce with the intent to end their marriage (which, as we’ve seen, is neither moral nor possible).

If a Catholic approaches a civil court for civil divorce with the intent of ending his marriage, then he commits a grave offense. To claim to break the marital contract, either in civil court or otherwise, is precisely what Christ forbade. Again, to use the words of the Catechism, it is immoral, it is gravely harmful, and it is traumatizing to the abandoned spouse and children. It is the very thing that “introduces disorder into the family and into society.”

We must remember that those who complete a civil divorce—whether for licit or illicit reasons—are still very much, in reality, married.

Here’s an example of how this distinction plays out in real life:

A dear friend of mine saw no other possible option but to file for civil divorce from her husband of many years, specifically to get physical and financial protection for herself and her children in a dire situation. There was simply no other mechanism in the civil law that could be used to secure those protections. My friend, whom I accompanied to court, would be the first to tell you that she was in no way claiming to break the marriage contract by approaching for a civil divorce.

Nor was she in any way thinking of “moving on” from her marriage, which in her mind (rightly) could never be “ended” by a civil court. She still prays for her husband’s redemption (matrimony is one of two sacraments ordered toward the salvation of the other [CCC 1534]) and the eventual restoration of her family.

Why is it necessary to be so clear about the distinction between divorce (a grave sin) and “civil divorce” (as a tolerable legal maneuver)? Because confusion surrounding this issue leads countless well-meaning but misguided Catholics to advise their hurting friends that it’s okay to civilly divorce when they are unhappy in their marriages—even absent the narrow conditions the Church requires for civil divorce to be tolerable, and quite often with the intent that the unhappy friend should “move on.”

But with even Catholic families shattering all around us, we must never be afraid to say that the act of approaching the civil court with the intent to break the marriage contract and “end the marriage” is always gravely immoral. Such civil divorces are not tolerable nor permissible, yet even otherwise faithful Catholics are routinely obtaining them. By contrast, accessing civil courts when there is no other possible way to get very specific legal protections is “tolerable” and permitted — but with hope for the repentance and healing necessary for potential resumption of the conjugal life, even if that possibility seems remote.

So, if you read this far and still, in your own mind, don’t have an answer to your question, my answer to it, in my opinion, is this: If your husband is shamelessly exploiting your labor and your goodwill, then he’s not a spouse, he’s a parasite. Worse, he’s a deplorable example to your own impressionable children of what a husband and spouse should be. It’s one thing if a spouse cannot work to support the family, but choosing to mooch off of one’s spouse is indefensible. If, after giving your husband the opportunity to take real, substantial steps toward cleaning up his act, he will not commit to breaking his bad habits, will not commit to being equally yoked with you to support the family (this does not mean each you must work precisely the same number of hours and do the same number of dishes, obviously, but that each of you does his/her best as a spouse), you are justified in divorcing him.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

(12) When is it appropriate to leave a marriage if your spouse does not contribute financially or emotionally and has no intention of doing so due to a sense of entitlement from their upbringing? – Mother-in-Law Mysteries and Conflicts – Quora

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Click to listen highlighted text!