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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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15 Books Perfect For Children Living With Abusive Parents

Parents often ask me for resources to help them support their children who are living with an abusive parent.  It can be such a difficult topic to explain as there are so many emotions involved.

I have therefore compiled this list, with the help of many of my clients, to offer you some guidance and words on how to best support the child.

It is broken down into age categories for ease but remember that a child’s physical age is not necessarily their emotional age so be mindful of where that child is at in terms of their own understanding.

Children aged 0 – 6

At this age children are learning that their behaviour effects the world around them and these early experiences form a blueprint for how they see their world. They may blame themselves for arguments and will be asking things like “why does mummy hate daddy?” or “what did I do wrong?”  Children will also begin to assert themselves in play and this can be aggressive.

Boys can “fall in love” with their mothers and girls with their fathers and so this stages forms a blueprint for relationships and how they view the opposite sex. Abusive parents can distort a child’s view of what the role of a mummy/daddy and man/woman is.

Therefore the books in this list focus on helping children to manage their emotions and understand anger better.

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr

Abusive parenting can result in emotions becoming very scary and distorted. The child may witness a parent happy one minute, angry the next with no trigger.  They won’t know what changed and so can be confused by not just their own emotions but also their parents.

Many children with abusive parents can also take ownership of their parent’s emotions and express them as their own.  Saying “I’m sad” or “I’m scared” but smiling and laughing.

This books helps children to identify what they are feeling on a range of subjects.

How are you feeling today Baby Bear By Jane Evans

Children who grow up in abusive homes often feel they did something wrong to cause the argument.  They regularly feel afraid, lonely, angry and tired.

This sensitive, charming storybook is written to help children who have lived with violence at home to begin to explore and name their feelings.

Kit Kitten and the Topsy Turvy Feelings by Jane Evans

Once upon a time there was a little kitten called Kit who lived with a grown-up cat called Kizz Cat. Kit Kitten couldn’t understand why sometimes Kizz Cat seemed sad and faraway and others times was busy and rushing about. Kit Kitten was sometimes cold and confused in this topsy turvy world and needed help to find ways to tell others about the big, medium and small feelings which were stuck inside. Luckily for Kit, Kindly Cat came along. Many children live in homes where things are chaotic and parents or carers are distracted and emotionally unavailable to them.

This storybook, designed for children aged 2 to 6, includes feelings based activities to build a child’s emotional awareness and vocabulary. A helpful tool for use by parents, carers, social workers and other professionals to enable young children to begin to name and talk about their feelings.

Two Homes by Claire Masurel

In this award-winning picture book classic about divorce, Alex has two homes – a home where Daddy lives and a home where Mummy lives. Alex has two front doors, two bedrooms and two very different favourite chairs. He has a toothbrush at Mummy’s and a toothbrush at Daddy’s. But whether Alex is with Mummy or Daddy, one thing stays the same: Alex is loved by them both – always.

This gently reassuring story focuses on what is gained rather than what is lost when parents divorce, while the sensitive illustrations, depicting two unique homes in all their small details, firmly establish Alex’s place in both of them. Two Homes will help children – and parents – embrace even the most difficult of changes with an open and optimistic heart.

Although not specifically centred upon parental mental health, divorce is an unsettling time for both parents and children and so this book may help ease the worry of how to explain what is happening to a child.

Grow Happy by Jon Lasser

“My name is Kiko. I’m a gardener. I grow happy. Let me show you how.” Kiko shows the reader how she grows happiness: by making good choices, taking care of her body and mind, paying attention to her feelings, problem solving, and spending time with family and friends. Kids will learn that they can play a pivotal role in creating their own happiness, just like Kiko. A Note to Parents and Other Caregivers provides more strategies for helping children learn how to grow happiness. Age range 4-8.

Anger is Okay, Violence is Not by Julie K Federico

Anger is OKAY Violence is NOT belongs on the desk of every child protective services case worker. This book has a hidden message for children who are living with violence and struggling with a domestic violence definition. This book is also a great resource for toddler’s struggling with temper tantrums. The book offers replacement behaviors children can do instead of getting angry. Anger is OKAY Violence is NOT teaches children about fish, feelings, families and anger control.

A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret Holmes

Sherman Smith saw the most terrible thing happen. At first he tried to forget about it, but soon something inside him started to bother him. He felt nervous for no reason. Sometimes his stomach hurt. He had bad dreams. And he started to feel angry and do mean things, which got him in trouble. Then he met Ms. Maple, who helped him talk about the terrible thing that he had tried to forget. Now Sherman is feeling much better.

This gently told and tenderly illustrated story is for children who have witnessed any kind of violent or traumatic episode, including physical abuse, school or gang violence, accidents, homicide, suicide, and natural disasters such as floods or fire. An afterword written for parents and other caregivers offers extensive suggestions for helping traumatized children, including a list of other sources that focus on specific events.

Children aged 7 – 13 years

At this age, children are asking more questions and starting to understand right from wrong. This can be especially hard when they are being taught bullying and violence is wrong but witness this at home. It can be really difficult for them to process and they will struggle with their own identity as well as feeling alienated from others. They will begin to identify with their own gender and so can align themselves with the abusive parent of the same sex. They are also learning consequences and to push boundaries. Abusive parents can either have to strict or too lapse boundaries and so children struggle to feel safe. This can lead to them withdrawing or lashing out.

The books in this age bracket are therefore focused on developing their identity and managing behaviours.

Lizzy Lives In An Angry House: Learning to Thrive In the Midst of an Angry Environment by Karen Addison MSPH

Karen Addison, educator, author and speaker, has witnessed and experienced the devastating effects of emotional and verbal abuse. Many have not addressed this form of destruction in relationships because it is difficult to talk about and difficult to understand. Often people don’t realize they are in emotionally destructive relationships, and this is especially true of children. If they are living in a home where a parent is “scary angry” and emotionally destructive, chances are the other parent is struggling to cope with that person, as well as the negative dynamics in the home. With wisdom and practical experience, Addison gives readers young and old alike an empathetic approach to recognising emotionally destructive (scary angry) relationships and tools to help those living in “scary angry” homes overcome and break the cycle of abuse

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class.

When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.

From esteemed author and speaker Trudy Ludwig and acclaimed illustrator Patrice Barton, this gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish. Any parent, teacher, or counselor looking for material that sensitively addresses the needs of quieter children will find The Invisible Boy a valuable and important resource.

Includes backmatter with discussion questions and resources for further reading.

Angryman by Gro Dahle

There’s someone in the living room.

It’s Dad.

It is Angryman.

Boj’s father can be very angry and violent. Boj calls this side of his father’s personality “Angryman.” When Angryman comes no one is safe. Until something powerful happens…

Gro Dahle’s astute text and Svein Nyhus’s bold, evocative art capture the full range of emotions that descend upon a small family as they grapple with “Angryman.” With an important message to children who experience the same things as Boj: You are not alone. It’s not your fault. You must tell someone you trust. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Somebody Cares: a Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Neglect by Susan Farber Straus

Somebody Cares explores the feelings and thoughts many kids have when they’ve had to look out for themselves or be alone much of the time. A useful book to read with a caring adult — such as a parent, foster parent, kinship parent, or therapist — Somebody Cares reassures children who have experienced neglect that they are not to blame for what happened in their family, and that they can feel good about themselves for many reasons. It takes time for kids to get used to changes in their family or living situation, even when they are good changes. This book will help kids learn some ways to feel safer, more relaxed, and more confident.

Teenagers

Teenagers are going through their own internal battle with hormone changes as well as having to make some life choices with regards to career. They often regress to toddler behaviour due to this pressure. For children with abusive parents the control between their own family and their friends can cause real confusion and disappointment or anger. They may, due to hormonal issues, start to lash out more and this can terrify them because they recognise themselves in their abusive parent. Equally they may see a passive parent and feel anger towards them for not doing anything. There may also be a physical risk to the child at this age as they talk back.

Children at this age will have a strong sense or morality though and so are more likely to want to speak out to others about the injustice they feel at home and perhaps even run away or move out as soon as they are old enough.

Therefore books for this age group are around managing their own emotions and feeling safe to speak up and gain some understanding about what is happening in their family.

Don’t let your emotions run your life by Sheri van Dijk

Let’s face it: life gives you plenty of reasons to get angry, sad, scared, and frustrated&mdashand those feelings are okay. But sometimes it can feel like your emotions are taking over, spinning out of control with a mind of their own. To make matters worse, these overwhelming emotions might be interfering with school, causing trouble in your relationships, and preventing you from living a happier life.

Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens is a workbook that can help. In this book, you’ll find new ways of managing your feelings so that you’ll be ready to handle anything life sends your way. Based in dialectical behavior therapy, a type of therapy designed to help people who have a hard time handling their intense emotions, this workbook helps you learn the skills you need to ride the ups and downs of life with grace and confidence.

This book offers easy techniques to help you: Stay calm and mindful in difficult situations, Effectively manage out-of-control emotions, Reduce the pain of intense emotions and Get along with family and friends

My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic by Michael A. Tompkins, Ph.D., and Katherine A. Martinez, Psy.D

Learn strategies to help you take control of your anxiety. The authors share information about breathing, thinking, facing fears, panic attacks, nutrition, sleep, exercise, medication, and how to tell if and when anxiety is a problem.

The Truth about Love, Dating and Just Being Friends by Chat Eastham

Chad shines some much-needed light on these major issues for teens. Rather than let their feelings navigate them blindly through their tumultuous adolescence, Chad offers clarity, some surprising revelations, and answers to some of their biggest questions: How do I know who to date?  When should I start dating? How should I start dating? Is this really love? And, Why do guys I like just want to be friends?

Packed with humor that adds to the sound advice, this book will help teens make better decisions, have healthier relationships, and be more prepared for their futures. Just a few things girls will learn include: Five things you need to know about love; Eight dumb dating things even smart people do; Ten reasons why teens are unhappy; and Ten things happy teens do.

Any teen can live a happier, healthier life: they just need to hear The Truth

Forged By Fire by Sharon M Draper

Will Gerald find the courage to stand up to his stepfather? 

When his loving aunt dies, Gerald suddenly is thrust into a new home filled with anger and abuse. A brutal stepfather with a flaming temper and an evil secret makes Gerald miserable, and the only light in his grim life is Angel, his young stepsister. Gerald and Angel grow close as he strives to protect her from Jordan, his abusive stepfather, and from their substance-addicted mother. But Gerald learns, painfully, that his post can’t be extinguished, and that he must be strong enough to face Jordan in a final confrontation, once and for all…. 

This list is not exhaustive

I have just compiled some that I think resonate with my audience but please do your own research. You know what your child is ready for. Also remember that the ages are not cut off points and so be mindful of your own child’s capacity and choose the ones which best suit by the content, not the age.

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