Divorcing as a Christian
Christians do not consider divorce lightly. The apostle Paul teaches that a marriage is more than simply a relationship between two individuals – it is a testament to the boundless love Christ shows for His church. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” Paul writes in Ephesians 5:21, and Christian couples enter their marriages with the intent to do so for life.
When this bond no longer seems possible, however, a Christian couple may start to ponder their options, including divorce. Speaking to an experienced family law attorney does not mean you have committed to pursuing a divorce. Choosing an attorney who understands your values, however, may help you make a more informed and deliberate choice that is in keeping with your faith.
4 Key Questions to Consider in a Christian Divorce
If divorce is an option you’re considering, keep these questions in mind:
1. Does my attorney understand my values and approach to divorce?
Many family law attorneys focus on the “mechanics” of divorce: how to reach a reasonable result that works for their client and is in the best interests of their client’s children. If you’re seeking to balance your Christian values against the troubles in your marriage, however, it is wise to work with an attorney who shares and appreciates those values. Your lawyer can help you understand how divorce works, what you can reasonably expect from the process and what your options are – including potential alternatives for restoring the health of your marriage.
2. Why do I want a divorce?
North Carolina law does not require any couple to divorce if they have a legally valid marriage. The law does provide several grounds on which a divorce can be based, including adultery, substance abuse or the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Ultimately, however, it is up to the couple to decide whether any of these grounds have actually destroyed the marriage, or whether the couple wants to continue working together within the bond of matrimony.
Choose an attorney who can help you ask this question and understand the answer. The realization you come to will help you make a more informed choice about how to proceed.
3. What do I think is a reasonable result if we do divorce?
Just as North Carolina law does not require a couple to divorce, it also does not require a particular result in most cases. Instead, the law provides a number of guidelines to help divorcing couples make reasonable choices that operate in the best interests of their anticipated separate lives and in the best interests of their children. Talk to your lawyer about what you see as a “reasonable” result. Your attorney can provide more information on how a court is likely to view that result and can help you negotiate in favor of your desired result if you do choose to divorce.
4. How can I reduce the acrimony of a divorce if I choose to pursue one?
Although the Scriptures weigh heavily against divorce, they also strongly condemn unnecessary strife and encourage Christians to seek peaceful and loving approaches to conflict. If you do choose to divorce, there are many options that can help you achieve these goals. Considering these options gives you a way for you and your spouse to work together to settle the legal issues surrounding divorce while keeping in mind Christ’s commandment to love others even when you find it most difficult to do so.
Alternatives to Litigation
If you do choose divorce, several options are available in addition to traditional divorce litigation. Here is an overview of potential alternatives:
- Collaborative Divorce – In a collaborative divorce, the spouses create an agreement in which they will work together to settle any lingering disputes, such as questions over where the children will live or how their support will be provided. You work with an attorney of your choosing, and so does your spouse. Your attorneys agree that their focus is on helping you collaborate – which can help you navigate your divorce more peaceably.
- Mediation – Like collaborative divorce, mediation focuses on allowing you, your spouse and your respective attorneys to work together to resolve issues. However, the process also brings in a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator’s responsibility is to help you both find “common ground” so you and your spouse can agree on how the divorce should proceed. Many collaborative divorces include a mediator at some point in the process.
- Family Law Arbitration – Arbitration is structured more formally than mediation. An arbitration case is heard by a neutral arbitrator who has the power to make decisions on issues as outlined in the arbitration agreement created by you and your spouse. Your attorney can also assist you throughout this process.
How Our Law Firm Can Help Christians Considering Divorce
Attorney Charles R. Ullman understands that fellow Christians cannot take divorce lightly. He devotes extra time to listening and discussing a potential divorce with each client, so that both he and the client can take the steps that are genuinely right for the marriage.
As a certified family law specialist, Mr. Ullman also has deep experience with more peaceable alternatives to traditional divorce litigation, including collaborative divorce, mediation and arbitration. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a resolution that respects and affirms your Christian faith, contact our Raleigh office today.