Unusual Divorce Laws From Around the World

Our legal team at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC routinely features blog posts about unique and important aspects of the divorce process, as well as other matters of family law. That’s due to the fact that divorce and family law can be complex and highly unfamiliar territory for most people looking to resolve their matters, and that educating yourself about the process can help immensely as you prepare, manage your expectations, and make informed decisions about your future.

While our team takes our role as advocates and legal guides seriously, we also know it’s beneficial to take a step back from the intricate details of particular laws and look as divorce and family laws from a different point of view. In fact, taking a look at laws from other states, different times, and other countries can provide a refreshing view on what it means, and has meant, to be married and divorced – at least to some people or legislatures. Now only can this help provide a better understanding of the complexity and variance in laws that govern our personal affairs and relationships, it can also provide a few needed laughs.

Below are some of the most unusual divorce laws from around that world that, remarkably, still exist today:

  • Divorce is still illegal in a lot of place – Divorce may have its origins in ancient Rome, but it’s a relatively “new” process in many places that has been subject to various ideas and rules of law throughout the years. In a younger country like the U.S., citizens have generally always had the right to divorce, though not always the right to marry who they please or the social support to terminate an unhappy union. In other places around the world, however, long-standing prohibitions or limitations on divorce still exist. In the Philippines, for example, divorce is illegal for all Filipinos, except for Filipinos of Islamic faith. Only civil annulments are permitted, but requirements for lengthy legal separation and long and costly court procedures make it an unpopular option. While the Philippines’ House of Representatives introduced a bill to legalize divorce for the first time in the nation’s history in 2018, it still remains a divisive topic.
  • Strict requirements, or a lack thereof – While there are certain procedures that must be met in order to divorce in the U.S., laws in some countries go much further. In Chile, a nation which only recently introduced a form of legal divorce, current laws mandate spouses to meet many requirements before their divorce can be finalized. Among these are providing a “valid reason” for divorce which must be approved by the court, and having been separated from one’s spouse for multiple years. While some laws may take this type of approach, others are astonishingly simple. Eskimo people need only to live separately, and not for any specific period of time, to end a marriage. A Tennessee law inexplicably still in effect permits men to divorce their wives so long as they provide them with 10 pounds of beans, 5 pounds of apples, meat, and enough yarn to knit stockings for a year. For some, that might actually be a better trade off than dividing marital assets between spouses for the purposes of property division.
  • New marriages and “remarriage”– Divorce in many ways can provide a fresh start, and for some people that means getting married again. However, some divorce laws restrict the abilities of divorcees to do whatever they want. In Japan, women, but not men, must wait at least 6 months after divorce before they can finalize a new marriage. In Kentucky, a law still on the books prevents gluttons for punishment, or severely conflicted people, from marrying a person who they have already divorced three times.
  • Unusual grounds for divorce – It wasn’t until 1983 that all but two states (South Dakota and New York) adopted some form of not-fault divorce laws, which means spouses don’t need to cite a reason for terminating their marriage apart from “irreconcilable differences.” Even in countries like the UK, spouses still have to cite a reason for getting divorced, though British government is trying to pass a no-fault divorce law. In the U.S., fault-based divorces are still available, and may be appropriate in some cases, such as those involving domestic violence or abandonment. While those reasons makes sense, other grounds for divorce still on the books today make little. For example, you can cite mistreatment of mother-in-law as a valid grounds for divorce in Wichita, Kansas, “attempted murder” as a reason for ending a marriage in Tennessee, and even failure to get permission for false teeth in Vermont. Divorce grounds from other countries can be just as strange. Women in Samoa have reason to divorce their forgetful husbands if they fail to remember their birthday, and women in Saudi Arabia whose husbands don’t bring them fresh coffee also have legal permission to end a marriage.
  • Married on a dare – Marriages are borne in all types of different ways, from young love and long-standing relationships to carefully planned unions and spur of the moment shotgun weddings. In Delaware, which must have had some type of widespread problem at some point in its history, spouses who get married on a dare or in jest can cite a law allowing them to obtain an annulment.

While they’re worth a chuckle, these laws are a great reminder that societal views on marriage and divorce, as well as the laws which govern them, are always evolving. In fact, we’ve discussed just that in recent blogs about increasing rates of married couples who opt for prenuptial agreements, rising rates of “Gray Divorce,” involving older couples, and new tax laws which will soon take effect and change how spousal support is treated under the U.S. tax code. As divorce and family law attorneys, it is our job to stay apprised of these changes, to identify and evaluate how our local courts apply the law to various cases, and use that insight for the benefit of our clients.

If you have questions about divorce laws which affect you and your case, or would like to speak personally with an attorney from our team about a divorce in Northern Virginia, Maryland, or the District of Columbia, please contact us to request an initial consultation. DiPietro Law Group, PLLC is standing by to help.

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