What’s your favorite divorce myth?
There are two countries in the world where divorce is illegal: Vatican City and the Philippines. In all the archaic laws in our country that need a major facelift, this one’s getting some major attention now—but maybe not for the right reasons.
Arguments from the pros and the antis have been loud, yet not all of them have valid foundations. So let’s discuss (and debunk) some of our countrymen’s favorite divorce myths, shall we?
There’s this debate that allowing divorce on our predominately Catholic shores will make marriage an unholy union. Let’s roll with it.
We learn from an early age, thanks to our predominately Catholic education and upbringing, that marriage is a holy union; it is embedded in us that marriage is a relationship between two individuals and God. So if people ever start thinking that divorce is enough to make it unholy, then maybe the fault is not in giving people a way out, but in how they’re taught and made to understand matrimony.
Call me old fashioned, but caging people into their marriage shouldn’t be the reason they stay. Whatever happened to love and respect, and mutual understanding?
People will recklessly get married
This is very in line with the first divorce myth up there. If people have a quick way out, what is going to make them think long and hard about entering a marriage in the first place? I don’t know about you guys, but that sounds like a problem with society and not the law.
Also: Malta’s had a divorce law since 2011 and, on its first year, had the lowest divorce rate (1 divorce per 1,000 couples) and highest marriage rate of 6.1 per 1,000 people. So no, if people aren’t reckless, the signing of the divorce bill into a law does not directly correlate to people running to the courts to get separated—at least not for new marriages.
The children will suffer
Not that the year should matter, but it’s 2019 and we still have this thinking that a child can only grow up “properly” if he is raised by a consistently present mother and a father. It’s definitely an outdated and one-sided argument—what about single parents? What about LGBTQ+ couples? What about parents that work abroad and leave their children in the care of their aunts, uncles or grandparents?
And, of course, there is this incredibly modern and almost unfathomable idea: Maybe children can learn so much more when they see their parents choose themselves over an unhealthy, unloving or even abusive relationship. It’s just a thought.
I'm not saying that the children will be perfectly fine; negative feelings will be in abundance. The child, no matter what age, is likely to suffer from anxiety, anger, shock and disbelief. But as a 2002 study from psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington of the University of Virginia and then graduate student Anne Mitchell Elmore found, most kids will recover before the second year is up. To support this further, there have been other studies that prove children who live in less-than-ideal homes exhibit higher levels of antisocial behavior, as well as anxiety and depression, before their parents' divorce when compared to post-divorce situations.
The idea is not to coddle children and try to put a band-aid on the failing relationship of their parents. What parents have to do is create an environment that is honest and straightforward and still has their children's best interest at heart—and volatile living arrangements just isn't it.
And a personal fave: “We already allow legal separation and annulment!”
“Why do we need divorce when people can just legally separate? We also have annulment; just get annulled!”
Legal separation doesn’t allow either individuals to remarry and try to build a healthier family relationship. Annulment, on the other hand, is incredibly expensive for the average Filipino, costing up to P300,000 in some cases. Besides, the only valid bases for annulment are:
- Absence of Parental Consent—applicable only if the married individual is aged between 18 and 21, if the petition is filed within five years of reaching the age of 21 and only if the persons involved have not cohabited as husband and wife beyond the age of 21.
- Metal Illness or Psychological Incapacity—only if someone is proven to be of unsound mind at the moment of marriage. If persons freely cohabit despite this knowledge, no annulment shall be granted
- Fraud—when consent to marriage was obtained by fraud, at which the petition must be filled within five years of dinging out this fact
- Force, Intimidation or Undue Influence—when consent to marriage is taken by either of these three methods, but not applicable when the same has ceased during filing of petition and must be filed with five years of injury
- Physically Incapability to Consummate—only if it seems incurable and only if petition is filed within the first five years of marriage
- Sexually Transmitted Disease—only if it seems incurable and only if petition is filed within the first five years of marriage
These six points deserve an article and fleshed out debate on their own, but—for now—we’ll let them simmer with you.
Another point that may be raised is that divorce, in our holy lands, is actually unconstitutional—which is true. At this moment in time, Section 2, Article 15 of the Constitution states that “marriage, an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.” But we will say, time and time again, that our laws need some major updating.
And as Senator Risa Hotiveros, author of three out of four divorce bills, said: “[The Divorce bill, if put into law] makes us respect marriage more by being more discerning with our choices in life. It protects children from abuse and rebuilds broken families…They, together with their children, deserve all the chances available in this world to build nurturing families and find true and meaningful relationships.”
Read that again: We all deserve the chance to find and build meaningful relationships.
Art Alexandra Lara