Formal Alternatives and Precursors for Divorce

By: mgordon | Posted: 06th July 2009

Divorce is a concept that divides people - in more than one sense. As well as legally separating a couple to live separate lives, it also leads to disputes between people - on religious, political or moral grounds - and even in countries where it has been permitted for close to or over a century, it still raises tempers and creates debate far and wide.

For those who are opposed to divorce, there must necessarily be an alternative in some cases. Even in countries and cultures that do not permit divorce under the law, there are alternatives which amount to the same thing for certain couples. In the Catholic Church, there is an option to annul the marriage. Although in effect annulment can be said to do the same job as divorce, the philosophy behind it is radically different. Where divorce can be said to end a marriage, annulment is retroactive. For the purposes of the party awarding the annulment, the marriage never actually existed.

For the marriage not to have existed, it needs to be found that it was entered into on the basis of a misleading assertion, or that some part of the "contract" of marriage was invalidated by poor faith on the part of one party or a past action by one or both. In such a case, the assertion is that if the marriage was based on something fraudulent, the marriage itself cannot be real and conclusive. A famous example of annulment would be the separation of the marriage of King Henry VIII of England and his first wife, Katherine of Aragón. As Henry was keen to marry Anne Boleyn - a younger woman, presumed fertile and who could give him the son for which he yearned - and securing a divorce would have proved problematic on a political front, his advisors secured him an annulment on the basis that Katherine's previous marriage, to Henry's brother, had been consummated and therefore could not be dissolved.

Not all annulments, however, are made on the grounds of securing a legacy-seeking king a second chance at conceiving a male heir. Although the Catholic Church is often accused of hypocrisy for declaring that all marriages are permanent but nonetheless providing through annulment a means of ending a marriage, it makes the distinction that an annulled marriage never was a true marriage in the first place. It does provide a way out for anyone who has been coerced into a marriage for the wrong reasons - stating that as they lacked willingness, they lacked intent, and the marriage lacks integrity.

Other people may choose a period of separation as an alternative to divorcing. This period may be short or long, and it may be intended to be temporary (a trial separation) or a precursor to a full divorce. The idea behind separating is that it creates the conditions for both parties to look critically and in a detached fashion at the state of their marriage. If there is something there to be rescued, they may well reunite and enjoy a long marriage. Many believe that a trial separation is virtually always the first step in a process that will end in divorce. However, it must be said that the space it allows gives couples a real opportunity to look at things in the most realistic manner possible.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

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Tags: couples, legacy, second chance, philosophy, marriage, divorce, assertion, tempers, catholic church, countries and cultures, separate lives