Marriage, Divorce and Co-Parenting Today

Marriage, Divorce and Co-Parenting Today

Marriage isn't for everyone these days

Photo by Vino Li on Unsplash

Americans are waiting longer to marry these days, with some deciding marriage is an antiquated institution that they want no part of according to a Pew Research Study. But that doesn’t stop couples from cohabiting and even having children together.

So, what does that mean for divorce and co-parenting?

Well, obviously, if they’ve never married, going through the legal process of divorce is eliminated, but these parents still face the rigors and questions of co-parenting in two homes and as a result,  family law attorneys see plenty of cases with never-married couples who want to legally codify a parenting plan to guide their lifelong responsibilities and ensure financial security for their children.

The divorce rate in America has been steadily falling for some time, but the downward trend of marriage in America isn’t that significant – yet. The 2019 Pew study reported that 58 percent of Americans were married in 1995 and now, it’s 53 percent. The study also revealed that more than three-quarters of young adults today are comfortable with the idea of living with a partner outside of marriage; and it’s not surprising that views about marriage vary according to religious affiliation.

But even with all of these changes in how people are now viewing marriage and parenting, married adults show higher levels of happiness in their relationships, along with more trust, than unmarried cohabiting couples.

Avoiding marriage doesn't mean people aren't having children

Photo by Ramin Talebi on Unsplash

Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the divorce rate is 2.3 per 1,000 people. And, more people were married in 2021 than in 1960 – perhaps due to a more robust nationwide population!

A lot of factors influence whether a person is likely to marry, cohabitate or stay single. Regardless, we are definitely in an age when the question of parenting exists outside of and separate from the question of marriage. If children are the future, then isn’t it wise for unmarried parents to commit to protecting their relationships with their children even when they themselves are no longer a couple.

Could this impact where we are in a decade or two from now? Who knows!

Marriage for All, Divorce for All

Marriage for All, Divorce for All

same-sex marriage and divorce rates may one day mirror that of opposite-sex couples

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

By Alisa Peskin-Shepherd

Since same-sex marriage first became legal in Massachusetts in 2004, I’ve been watching to see if marriage trends and divorce trends mirror what we see in the heterosexual world. Because just as anyone can fall in love, anyone can fall out of love, too.

Not all marriages are meant to last forever!

Since 2015, same-sex couples have been allowed to legally marry in all 50 states, but the effort began way back in the 1970s, as part of the Civil Rights movement to extend the rights of a democratic nation to all of its citizens. I believe strongly that all couples who want to marry should be allowed to do so.

A 2011 study initially reported that same-sex couples divorced at a slightly lower rate than their opposite-sex couple counterparts. According to a 2021 article by Pride Legal, lesbian marriage has a high divorce rate. The article cites a 16% divorce rate for gay marriages compared with a 34% divorce rate for lesbian couples – against a 19% divorce rate for heterosexual couples.

same-sex marriages don't always work out

Photo by Steven Ritzer on Unsplash

(Check out this 2013 New York Magazine article about same-sex splits.)

In the LGBTQ community, there is not always consensus on the formal institution of marriage. Some eagerly march to the altar, excited to finally have the option to be equal under the laws of our nation.

Other couples, however, won’t marry on principle, seeing it as a backwards, archaic institution foisted upon people as a way of locking in property and control.

With legal recognition comes legal quandaries, and a legally-married same-sex couple who wants to split must go through the same processes as a heterosexual couple seeking to divorce. The tricky part comes when they have children.

Six states have attempted to deny same-sex couples full adoption rights when one partner (or both) is not the biological parent of the child. Not having both parents’ names on a child’s birth certificate can cause immense problems if a couple parts ways.

In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Pavan v. Smith that same-sex couples must be treated equally to opposite-sex couples in the issuance of birth certificates.

Divorce occurs according to state specifications, which dictate child support, child custody, division of assets and spousal support. If an LGBTQ couple married before 2015, a local judge may split assets unfairly or not be open to shared custody or parental rights.

Same-sex marriages often last!

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

If the couple can create a harmonious parenting plan on their own, it will serve them well when they go to court. If they leave it up to the court, they may find that the non-biological parent, if they have not adopted the child legally, may be out in the cold.

If a spouse was never considered the child’s parent in the eyes of the law, the court may not grant visitation, custody, or parental rights. How devastating for both the child and the non-custodial parent!

After the Supreme Court leak highlighting the forthcoming overturning of Roe v. Wade, many of us in the law are concerned that this will spark a trend of overturning long-fought-for laws affecting other American rights, including same-sex marriage. We’ve fought so hard for so long to give all our citizens equal representation under the law.

I hope it’s not all in vain.

Older Americans & Gray Divorce: a Growing Trend

Older Americans & Gray Divorce: a Growing Trend

Photo by Leon Ell’ on Unsplash

May is Older Americans Month, a term I hate because after all, what is an Older American? It is supposed to refer to the elders of our communities, which I guess I’d be considered, but I certainly don’t feel that I am!

Similarly, Gray Divorce, the growing trend since 1990 of couples past age 50 who call it quits, refers to older adults who decide to break up once they’ve gone gray. Again, not the best term, though it does roll off the tongue.

Regardless of the terminology, though, Gray Divorce is a growing trend that is predicted to explode by 2030! We support more and more Gray Divorce clients, who are by definition older Americans, and I find there are some similarities among these cases.

First, people reach a certain point in their lives, or their relationships, when they feel confident enough to know what they want and buck societal expectations to go for it.

Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash

Maybe they wanted to leave earlier, but worried they’d field criticism, judgment or abandonment by friends or family. Then they get to a point where they realize that no one’s opinion matters other than their own.

Also, there are some couples who enjoyed a respectable marriage – 20 or 30 years, perhaps – and simply outgrew the relationship or each other. There is nothing to lament! It’s OK to move on at midlife.

Especially because we are all living longer these days and may have many careers – why wouldn’t the same evolution happen with our personal pursuits?

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd on FOX 2 Detroit in 2016, talking about Gray Divorce

Finally, many couples wait until their children are grown to call it quits. They may think that it will be easier on their kids once they’re out of the house – but I have news for you. It is NEVER easy on the children when a couple divorces. Sorry to say – even fully grown adults with kids of their own will experience emotions and have opinions if their parents break up.

Regardless of the reasons, Gray Divorce is a fact of the 21st century. Learn more about it here. And check out my interview on FOX 2 Detroit about Gray Divorce.

And if you’d like to discuss how this might apply to you, click here to set up a consultative call.

The Over-Emphasis of Valentine’s Day

The Over-Emphasis of Valentine’s Day

The Over-Emphasis of Valentine’s Day

In the world of divorce, Valentine’s Day is a dreaded occurrence.

Some of my clients feel sad or angry or just very alone when this day rolls around. It’s marketed as a time to celebrate love and romance, and I’m in the business of ending relationships in very final and lasting ways.

Over the years, I’ve done media interviews about how it is possible to “love” your ex and why you might want to. In my work as a Collaborative Divorce attorney, I focus on finding peaceful and harmonious resolution to an ending marriage, especially when children are present.

valentine's day

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

But at the end of the day, I can’t stop this holiday coming and I can’t change how our society reveres passionate romantic love and scowls on splitting up. There is so much judgment about how a failed relationship is a personal failure, and how being alone is something to lament.

I prefer to look at it so differently.

First, I’ve been taught by scholars and philosophers that the way we define love in the western world is flawed. We see it as preferential attachment as opposed to universal understanding.

That’s step one. See love as a relational thing. I see the humanity in you, and you see it in me. I don’t cling to you, and I don’t need you. I can relate to you. I can share space and time, I can live alongside you, but with or without you, I am complete, whole, wonderful.

Step two is to embrace the notion that there is nothing wrong with being alone. When we can be intimate in knowing ourselves, and really appreciate how special and unique we are at the core, we can find true happiness.

Happiness and success and a life well-lived should not depend on who walks beside us, or who tumbles in the bed next to us at night. I rise in the morning to greet myself in the mirror and that is as good a start to the day as any.

valentine's day

Recently, I became a representative of Our Family in Two Homes, a resource to guide divorcing families to a seamless, compatible carrying-on beyond their split. It aligns with my preference for Collaborative Divorce as a humane way to end a relationship.

It’s a workbook that clients can use to get themselves on solid ground before proceeding with divorce. So much of this resource guides clients to self-reflection and discovery, to communication styles and the values they want for their family and their life.

We could all benefit from such a deep dive!

All of this is to say that I refuse to be sidelined by mistaken notions of what it means to be whole and full of love.

We’re beyond Valentine’s Day for this year, and before it comes around again, I pledge to help my clients move to a place of clarity and wholeness regardless of where their relationships take them. It’s really the best place to be.

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Welcome to a New U.S. President

Welcome to a New U.S. President

Welcome to a New U.S. President

This week, the United States inaugurates a new President, with a major change in Administration after a tumultuous election season. There are many reasons why change can be good, and in this blog, I’d like to focus on how the new American presidency might affect divorce, marriage and the way people get along in our nation.

travel work

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

We know that Americans are deeply divided. If the last year showed us anything, it’s that we may all be united by citizenship, but we remain in opposition to one another in ideology, belief, practice, and politics.

Whether America can survive as a functioning democracy remains to be seen. More than 8 million people are excited this week about Joe Biden becoming our next U.S. President. And yet, 7 million people voted to retain Donald Trump for another term.

That’s a big gap.

What lies ahead for our nation depends on whether we can find a way for ALL Americans to believe in the possibility of America once again. Can we come together in shared values and vision?

After the November election, it felt like some of the rampant divisiveness calmed a little. I hope that the Biden Administration gives us time to try to readjust the scales, get back into balance.

Some people who are more progressive, or did not want to retain Donald Trump, but who may not quite be on the Biden bandwagon, may have expectations for what lies ahead. Wherever we stand on the political spectrum, we must be careful to hold realistic expectations for what is possible.

A President is ONE human trying to make decisions on behalf of one of the largest nations in the world, populated by so many varieties of people. It is not an easy job for anyone, and I have yet to see a candidate who speaks and moves for ALL the people.

There is only so much that can be accomplished in the first 100 days of a new presidency. We must remember that before we jump to critique or condemn.
travel work

Over the last year, due to the ongoing pandemic, we’ve taken to digital communication channels as our lifeline.

We’ve debated and discussed, blocked and welcomed. We’ve argued over what is best for our people, what is the way forward.

As a divorce lawyer, I look at the lessons we are beginning to pull from the last year, and the last four years, and the new presidency ahead, and I think, there is advice in all this for marriages and relationships. Here is what I have to offer:

  1. Just like a President can only do so much in the first 100 days of an Administration, so too a relationship can only withstand so much effort and energy in its early days.
  2. We must have realistic expectations for every relationship – and for the humans in those relationships.
  3. We are, as a species, easily disappointed, and easily excited. The healthiest place is to live in between those extremes.
  4. We cannot put all our hope into one person to lead us forward. Whether a President, or a spouse/partner.
  5. That said, we must respect the expertise of our leaders. For a marital relationship, that means take advice from those who’ve endured through decades – don’t think you know better than they do how to make a marriage work! (I’m thinking of all the Dr. Fauci haters who think they know how to handle a pandemic better.)
  6. There is no perfect partner. Only you can strive to be the best you can be and forgive the faults of your partner. (We should remember this when President Biden isn’t perfect. He can’t be. He’s human. He’ll do things we won’t agree with, but that doesn’t make his Administration evil.)
  7. Keep your expectations in check, stay realistic, and remember there is no perfect system.

Whether it’s a marriage or a political position, or the leader of the free world, we’re all doing the best we can. Go into it with this perspective – knowing that there will be disappointments, arguments, and reasons to celebrate.

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