7 Strange Divorce Laws Still “On The Books”

7 Strange Divorce Laws Still “On The Books”

Originally published by Hendershot, Cannon and Hisey, P.C. Blog.

At Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C., many of our blogs shed light into the intricate inner workings of Texas divorce and family law – from property division and child custody to spousal support, taxes, and more.

While divorce is certainly a serious subject where being well-informed is of crucial importance, taking a moment to reflect on some of the more unusual aspects of this practice area can provide a different perspective on your own issues, as well as a few laughs or food for thought.

Few things offer such an opportunity than a look into the most unique and unusual divorce laws.

7 Unusual Divorce Laws

In the U.S. and other countries around the world, there remain a number of strange divorce laws that are still technically in effect.

Whether they’re inexplicably bizarre, reminders of times gone by that haven’t yet been changed, or newer laws that address issues not ordinarily associated with the divorce process, these obscure laws are enough to make anyone think twice about their own cases.

Here are some of the strangest divorce laws still on the books today:

  1. Divorce is still illegal in some countries – Laws prohibiting divorce are some of the most tangible reminders of its historical evolution. Even well into the 21st century, a number of countries across the world do not allow spouses to divorce. In the Philippines, for example, divorce is generally illegal with the exception of certain circumstances, such as those involving Filipino citizens who marry foreign nationals and divorce in their spouse’s country of residence (but even when two Filipino spouses divorce in another country, their divorce won’t be recognized under their own country’s laws). In the Philippines, as well as countries that have just recently implemented some form of legal divorce (like Chile), terminating a marriage often requires spouses to navigate complex and lengthy proceedings. This includes having to prove a reason for divorce, as well as requirements that spouses be separated for several years before any formal separation or annulment is granted.
  2. Married on a dare? – Although there may not be many spouses who chose to tie the knot on a dare, those in Delaware who regret doing just that have the right to file for an annulment under a strange provision of the Delaware Divorce and Annulment Act. Among other qualifying reasons for granting an annulment, Delaware courts will grant a decree of annulment when one or both parties entered into marriage as a “jest” or dare.
  3. Marrying the same person four times – Though not common, there are cases of spouses who get divorced only to reconcile and rekindle their relationships later on, sometimes to the point of getting married again. While that’s understandable and perhaps part of the mystery of love, spouses on that trend should be careful of one unique Kentucky law prohibiting multiple marriages to the same spouse. Under state law that could have only been passed in an attempt to help couples stop the madness, it’s illegal for folks in Kentucky to marry the same person four times. For most people, however, that’s probably not a concern.
  4. Strange grounds for divorce – Today, all states in the U.S. have adopted some form of no-fault divorce, though there are still fault-based divorces and justifications for citing a reason to divorce (such as domestic violence or other issues that would impact case outcomes). While grounds for a fault-based divorce usually make sense (i.e. adultery, abandonment, or a criminal conviction resulting in incarceration), some states still have more unusual statutory provisions for permitting divorce. These include divorce on the basis of mistreating a spouse’s mother-in-law (Wichita, Kansas), or a spouse going “insane” up to five years after a marriage (New York). In Tennessee, you can even cite “attempted murder” as a valid grounds for divorce thanks to a law that permits divorce when one spouse tries to kill the other in a malicious manner (one example of “malice” cited in the statute is by using poison). There are also laws in other countries which provide some unique grounds for divorce. In Samoa, women can legally divorce their husbands for forgetting their birthdays, and in Saudi Arabia, married men who fail to bring their wives fresh coffee each day could very well find themselves served with divorce papers.
  5. Divorce can be simple for some societies – While the divorce process can entail a range of emotional and financial concerns in many countries, it can actually be pretty simple for spouses elsewhere. In Eskimo societies, for example, spouses who live apart from one another for any period of time can formally end their marriages. In Australia, Aboriginal women with husbands who won’t file for divorce (since women cannot file) have the option of simply marrying another spouse. An elopement instantly ends the previous marriage.
  6. Pet Custody – Child custody proceedings are among the most important matters in divorce, but what about custody of pets? While deciding who keeps the dog, cat, or other furry friend may not have been as much of a concern years ago, many people today view their pets as a part of the family. As such, there’s been a growing focus on “pet custody” and how family courts handle these matters upon divorce. In states with evolving pet custody legislation, family judges have discretion to consider the best interests of pets, rather than treating them solely as property.
  7. Marriage Laws – In addition to divorce laws, many states have laws addressing how spouses marry and even what they’re allowed, and not allowed, to do during the marriage. In South Carolina, for example, the state’s Offenses Against Morality and Decency Act makes it a misdemeanor for men over the age of 16 to propose to women as a means of seduction. There are also laws prohibiting married couples from sleeping nude in a rented room (Salem, Massachusetts), wives from wearing false teeth without the written permission of their husbands (Vermont), spouses from getting married if the county clerk issuing the marriage license believes either spouse is drunk, insane, or an imbecile (Mississippi), and even husbands from scowling at their wives on a Sunday (Colorado).

Help for Houston Spouses Seeking Divorce

If there’s anything worth taking away from these strange and arguably outdated laws, it is that divorce and family law, like any area of law and the societal views that shape them, are constantly evolving.

At HCH, we know staying apprised of current laws and issues that impact our clients is critical when it comes to providing personalized, quality representation. That includes everything from helping clients who attended college in a time of rising tuition rates address the division of student loans, helping older adults determine how their retirement accounts will be divided, and more.

If you are currently considering divorce in Houston or any of the surrounding areas of Texas, our award-winning legal team at Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. is here to help. Call (713) 909-7323 to speak with a lawyer.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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