Why Do Unhappy Couples Stay Married?
For a lot of people, being successful in love is at least as important as being successful at work or with their family. But there’s nothing easy about finding a relationship that works perfectly. That’s why so many unhappy couples settle for a situation that’s not exactly ideal. It’s why they end up staying together even though they have a lot of problems. According to a few studies, there are certain common reasons people stay in their marriage, even when it’s painful.
Here they are:
• For Reasons Outside Of The Relationship Itself: One of the main reasons unhappy couples say they don’t break up is that there are external factors stopping them, like not having money or because they have children together. Ending the relationship would obviously lead to a lot of suffering because of these factors. So the couple decides to stay together even if it’s bad. However, a lot of times they’re just trading pain now for pain in the future. They just make the pain last much longer. For example, most couples who stay together for their children end up doing them more harm than good in the long-term. That’s why it’s usually better to find a solution when there are external factors keeping the relationship alive even though it stopped working a long time ago.
• For Religious Reasons: Another big reason a lot of unhappy couples stay together is their religious beliefs. As an example, just look at any country where Catholicism is very important. In these places, divorce fees are much higher than they are in secular countries. This has to do the religious belief that marriage is sacred. So they see breaking it apart as one of the worst things any couple can do. Thus, married Catholics would usually rather be unhappy in their relationship than commit such a terrible act (in their minds).
• Having A Strong Commitment To Each Other: But not all unhappy couples who stay together do it for external reasons like money or religion. Sometimes the main reason people stick with their stale relationships is that they have a strong commitment to each other.
• The “Sunk Cost” Fallacy: One of the most harmful cognitive biases you can fall into is the sunk cost fallacy. Here, you have something you’ve put a lot of effort and resources into and you feel the need to stick with that thing even if it’s obviously not working. It happens to gamblers and also couples. The sunk cost fallacy can hurt you in a lot of different ways. When it comes to relationships, it can push you to fight for a relationship that doesn’t work anymore. You basically just do it because you’ve already been together for so long. That might sound nice in theory, but you’ll only end up resenting your partner. It will only pusher you farther away from each other, never closer.
• We Stay In Unhappy Marriages for Our Children: Many people in self-proclaimed unhappy marriages say that they stay with their spouse for the sake of their children. They don’t know how their children will respond, don’t have a clear understanding of how child custody will work in their case, or are scared of losing their relationship with their children post-divorce. Once we become parents, much of our decision-making is focused on how a particular decision will impact our children. Nobody wants to see their children upset and scared. The fact is, however, that in order for your children to have healthy relationships, they need good examples of what healthy relationships should be like. If you and your spouse are constantly fighting, then the example you are setting for your child is that being unhappy is ok. It is your responsibility as a parent to value your happiness, as a model for your children and the standards they should set for their own relationships.
• We Stay In Unhappy Marriages Because of Happy Memories: The funny thing about memories is that we only remember certain things – the really good things and the really bad things. All of the middle moments just sort of blends together. So when you look back at the life you have built with your spouse, there are a few key memories and moments that spring to mind, and since the actual emotions you felt are long passed, you have ghost emotions that are typically much stronger one direction or the other than it was during the actual event.
• We Stay In Unhappy Marriages Because of Fear: Regardless of what other reason your brain may generate for you, the reason why we stay in unhappy marriages is fear. Fear of change, fear of loss, and fear of what their future will be like without your spouse. You shouldn’t be ashamed of being afraid. Fear is what keeps us from making really bad choices in our lives. You didn’t jump off a bridge, even though all your friends were doing it, because you were afraid of the consequences. In this instance, your fear was justified and helped to preserve your life and health. That is what fear is for. Fear can be a great thing, as it is your brain’s way of protecting you from potential hazards. It is when you become immobilized by fear that things get tricky. Inaction is the best friend of fear, and they love to work together to keep you from moving forward. You have done new and scary things your entire life, from taking your first steps to rebelling against your parents, even getting married! The fears that you have overcome have defined who you are as a person, and those that you allow to rule your life do the same.
How to Divorce
You’ve decided you’re ready to get divorced, but what do you need to do next? You need to learn how the process works. While divorce is generally an adversarial action, pitting spouse against spouse, the following articles and legal resources are tailored toward helping individuals navigate the process as smoothly as possible.
Legal Requirements to Divorce
You first need to consider where to file for divorce. Typically, this is the county and state where one or both of you live. First, determine if you meet the state’s residency requirements. If you or your spouses are in the military, you may file where currently stationed. However, there are rules to protect active duty service members from civil lawsuits.
Completing and Filing Divorce Petitions
To complete the divorce petition, first consider whether you want a “no fault” or “fault” divorce. Fault divorces are for things such as abuse or adultery, read more in the articles below. If you don’t have any kids or many assets, you could get a “summary” divorce. With children, there’s child custody and child support papers to complete. You can complete divorce forms on your own, at a self-help legal clinic, or with a lawyer. As you don’t want to unnecessarily waive your marital property, spousal support, or other rights, seeking legal advice is a good idea, especially if you have many assets.
Serving Divorce Papers
Once you’ve filed your divorce papers at court, you have to “serve” them on your spouse. Generally, this means another adult must physically give the papers to your spouse. You can use professional servers or save money by having a friend serve the papers for you. If domestic violence is involved, the police in some counties will serve the papers, without charging the usual fee.
Answering a Divorce Petition
Maybe your spouse just served you with dissolution papers. You still have the opportunity to tell the court what you do and don’t want in the divorce. Take care to “answer” within the deadline set by state law. In responding, you can fill out the court forms yourself, at a legal clinic, or with the help of an experienced divorce lawyer. If there are disagreements about what to do with children or property, considering hiring an attorney.
Mediation and Settling a Divorce Case
Many divorces settle with an agreement both parties can live with. Many states require mediation to help reach a property settlement and a parenting plan everyone can follow. Even without a formal program, you and your spouse can use a “collaborative” divorce process from the beginning or can use an “alternative dispute resolution” specialist to help you settle your divorce.
Trial and Appeals
If your case goes to trial, you’ll need to present evidence, possibly including testimony from witnesses, so the judge can decide a property settlement for you. It will be easier if you’re represented by an attorney at trial. It’s also possible you want to appeal or modify a divorce judgment.
Which documents will you need?
Depending on the type of divorce, the court may ask for:
• Address proof of husband and wife.
• Details of professions and current earnings of husband and wife.
• Certificate of marriage.
• Information regarding family background.
• Photographs of marriage.
• Evidence to prove that the husband and wife have been living separately for more than a year.
• Evidence proving failed attempts at reconciliation.
State courts have power (or “jurisdiction”) over divorce proceedings, so the spouse seeking a divorce files an initial document called a divorce “petition” or “complaint” with his or her state court usually in the county or district branch of the state’s “superior” or “circuit” court. In some states, the superior or circuit court will have a specific family court division where the divorce petition is filed and the case is heard. In other states, no specific family court division is designated, so the divorce petition is filed in the main civil division of the superior or circuit court. In heavily populated areas, the county or district branch of the state court may itself have a number of facilities in different locations. You can check a list of state family courts or contact the local county/district branch of your state’s court to learn more about where to file for divorce. Be aware that courts with jurisdiction for divorce cases may not be the same as courts with jurisdiction over child custody and visitation cases.
State and County/District Residency Requirements
Most states have their own residency requirements for people who wish to file for divorce in the state’s court system rules as to the length of time a spouse must reside in a state before filing for divorce there. Before filing for divorce, you will most likely need to comply with not only your state’s residency requirements, but also local county or district residency requirements. Check with the local county/district branch of your state’s court to learn more about residency requirements for filing for divorce.
Filing and Serving Divorce Papers
The divorce petition is a legal document filed in court by a spouse who seeks a divorce. Also called the “complaint” in some states, the petition informs the court of the filing spouse’s (called the “petitioner”) desire to end the marriage, and its filing with the court signifies the initiation of the divorce process. Once the divorce petition has been “served” on the petitioner’s spouse, it also notifies them that the divorce process has begun.
Contents of the Divorce Petition: Information and Requests
While specific requirements and formats vary from state to state, the divorce petition typically contains the following information:
• Identification of the spouses by name and address;
• Date and place of marriage;
• Identification of children of the marriage;
• Acknowledgment that the petitioner and/or his or her spouse have lived in the state or county for a certain amount of time prior to filing the petition;
• Grounds for divorce;
• Declaration or request as to how the petitioner would like to settle finances, property division, child custody, visitation, and other issues related to divorce.
Contents of the Divorce Petition: Temporary Orders
In addition to the information described above, the divorce petition may ask the court to put temporary “orders” in place on certain family and financial issues while the divorce process is ongoing. If approved, these orders usually stay in effect until the divorce becomes final. These temporary orders may pertain to issues such as:
• Which spouse will have primary (physical) custody of the child(ren).
• Child visitation schedule for the non-custodial spouse.
• Payment of child support.
• Payment of spousal support.
• Which spouse will live in the couple’s house or primary residence.
• Payment of bills and other financial concerns.
Divorce Settlement Agreements and Court Approval
The divorce has been hard enough, and now there might be a trial? Trials may look good on television, but in most cases a settlement outside of court proceedings can be a better way to go. If you and your spouse can agree on the important issues in your divorce, you can avoid a trial. Here is a quick primer on how out-of-court settlement agreements in divorce cases get court approval.
Alternative Dispute Resolution in Divorces
The vast majority of divorce cases reach settlement before the case needs to go to trial, whether as a result of informal negotiations between the spouses (and their attorneys) or through alternative dispute resolution processes like mediation or collaborative law. Below is a discussion of settlement agreements and court approval in divorce cases.
The Divorce Settlement Agreement
If a divorcing couples (and their attorneys) negotiates and resolves all issues related to their divorce, whether informally or through out-of-court processes like mediation or collaborative law, the couple’s decisions are finalized in detail in a written settlement agreement. This agreement is then shown to a judge in the county/district branch of state court where the divorce petition was filed. An informal hearing will usually follow, during which the judge will ask some basic factual questions, and whether each party understands and chose to voluntarily sign the agreement. As long as the judge is satisfied that the agreement was fairly negotiated, and the terms do not appear to blatantly favor one spouse over the other, the settlement agreement will almost always receive court approval.
Court Approval and Divorce Decree
Once the judge approves the divorcing couple’s settlement agreement, he or she gives the couple a divorce decree that shows that the divorce is final, and documents how key issues have been resolved. The decree dictates a number of things about the now-divorced couple’s rights and obligations, including:
• Division of the couple’s marital property, debts, and resolution of other financial matters;
• Child custody, living arrangements, and a visitation schedule; and
• Child support and spousal support (alimony): who pays, who receives, how much, when, etc.
If the judge does not approve one or more terms of the settlement agreement, he or she will likely order the parties to continue negotiating on those terms. If the couple does not reach any settlement agreement, the divorce case will go to trial before a judge or jury.
Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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