When it comes to divorce, often a spouse is looking for answers in all the wrong places. Consequently, the spouse is inundated with a plethora of misinformation. One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that you need your spouse’s permission or agreement to get the divorce. While that statement is true in some circumstances, it is not true for all cases. For example, look at Mason and Mary’s case.
Mason and Mary got married when they were 40 and 38, respectively. When they were married, Mary had two adult daughters who never lived with the new couple. The couple began to build a life together for the next six years. During the last two of the six years, the marriage began to break down and Mason began seeing another woman. Mason’s affair started out private for about a year. After a year of seeing the other woman in private, Mason made it known to Mary that he was no longer interested in their marriage and wanted a divorce. Mary refused to agree to a divorce, pleading with him not to leave her and vowed to make their marriage work.
Mason was disinterested in making his marriage work and began publicly dating the other woman to the point it was known to all his friends and family that he had a new girlfriend. After a while, Mary decided to move out of the shared home without telling Mason. Mason returned home one day to find all of Mary’s things and some of his things were gone. Mary later called Mason and told him that she was gone.
Mason eventually moved out of the shared home and got a place on his own. Many years later, Mason and the new girlfriend moved in together and had a daughter. Mary and Mason never spoke again and for the next seven years, they lived totally separate lives. After ten years of living apart and not communicating with one another, Mason wanted to legally divorce Mary. Mary refused and told Mason that she was never going to agree to a divorce. Mason thought he would have to stay together forever.
In Mason’s situation, he could proceed with a divorce without Mary’s approval. Mason has what’s called a fault based divorce. As long as Mason can prove the grounds of fault before a judge, he does not need Mary to agree.
There are many other instances where agreement to divorce is not necessary from the opposing spouse to proceed. The best way to determine if you have grounds for divorce is to have your specific situation assessed by an experienced attorney.
This example is of course a worst-case scenario of what could happen to a family who has not taken all the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their children in the event of tragedy and are not protected by a legal marriage. While Sam and Sarah did not have to be married to prevent the tragic dilemma Sam faced upon Sarah’s death, marriage would have given Sam all the rights to Sarah’s estate and would have allowed him to make decision for all four children and keep them together. Marriage under the law is a legal relationship that creates rights upon the two individuals who enter into it. Absent a legal marriage, Sam and Sarah would have had to take extraordinary legal precautions to ensure that in the event of a tragedy, the family would still be protected.
If you or someone you know is currently in a situation like Sam and Sarah’s, please speak with a lawyer about all the legal ramifications of not getting married. Be proactive so that tragedy does not disrupt the family life any more than necessary.