How the current law hurts marriage
There is a very common misconception that making divorce easier would result in more divorces. The fact is, however, that complicated and costly divorce laws is not an effective deterrent to divorce. It can actually hurt marriages.
The first way that it can hurt marriage, is when a person who is considering the possibility of divorce realizes that he/she may have to pay for an additional year of alimony for every additional year that he/she stays married. This economic incentive to initiate the divorce sooner rather than later may be the final push someone needs to take the bold step of moving forward with this difficult decision.
This was certainly a factor during my never ending divorce decision dilemma. I was determined to stay in my marriage at least until my children graduated from high school. However, I was also aware of how this decision would result in a lifetime sentence of alimony payment. If it wasn't for this factor, I would probably have endured my bad marriage longer. During this time, it would have been possible for things to improve and for my marriage to be saved.
The second and most significant way that alimony hurts marriage has to do with what happens after the separation. Even the most difficult marriages have some good sides to it. After years of living together, raising the children, and overcoming many challenges, couples do develop a close bond. This bond may be full of both negative and positive elements, but it's still a strong bond. Regardless of who initiated the divorce, when you separate, it is hard to adapt to the separation. It feels as if part of you is missing. You feel disoriented, lonely, and unsure if you made the right decision.
The positive side of a separation is that it gives couples an opportunity to re-evaluate their lives, attitudes, priorities, and goals. Individuals can significantly grow during this time, find new perspectives, discover important things about themselves, and change. This growth combined with the difficult emotions associated with the separation create a strong possibility for reunification with the ex.
Unfortunately, the possibility of reunification is squashed the moment the lawyers and the court system gets involved. Once a couple goes into litigation, usually to fight for money or for the children's custody (due to the money it brings in), all bets are off. Instead of focusing on emotional recovery, self-discovery, and life re-evaluation, you're now focused on a war that often has no limits or moral boundaries. Sometimes fueled by fear, confusion, revenge, or straight forward greed, people can completely destroy each other in court, using whatever means are necessary, for an additional amount of money per month.
Often, the person who is initiating the attack has no idea of how flawed the system is. Motivated by a lawyer that has no interest in the long-term consequences of litigation, and filled with unrealistic expectations, a fragile and/or confused individual may embark on this dark road with the illusion that a well-informed and prepared judge will help them.
While this individual may eventually get the long awaited alimony and/or full custody award, it comes with an immeasurable price. First, as previously noted, it eliminates any possibility of reunification. Secondly, even if reunification was never a possibility, it turns potential friends and allies into enemies. See the real cost of alimony for more on this.
In my specific case, I really wanted to help my ex rebuild her life. My goal was to be her lifetime ally and to support her in many ways for as long as I was alive. Also, when I separated, knowing my personality (a 100% family guy), I knew there was a strong possibility of reunification. However, after our legal battle that lasted more than two years, about $20K for each lawyer, and the knowledge that I will continue to be exploited with excessive alimony for eight more years, I can now say that it's very unlikely that we will ever look at each other's face again...