- One of the most difficult aspects of a divorce as a Christian is maintaining your Christian character during a divorce. Whether you are a practicing Christian or merely identify as a Christian, it can be difficult to reconcile Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek with ensuring you receive what you are entitled to receive in a divorce.
- I’ve been a divorce lawyer in Alabama for more than 15 years. Divorce is difficult and ugly. The emotions get the best of us – I get it. Even as the attorney, being a zealous advocate for my client, I have sometimes not practiced my faith well. So, how do we practice our faith during a divorce?
What is a Christian divorce?
- A Christian divorce is for those who identify as Christian to proceed through the divorce process in a way that preserves relationships, preserves your Christian witness, encourages meaningful change, and produces hope. Paul wrote in Romans, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)
- Christian divorce sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it! After all, we aren’t supposed to divorce are we? To be clear, this is not about advocating for divorce. I wish all marriages remained intact until death do you part. However, the reality is that Christians do file for divorce. Christians, though, are instructed to handle conflicts differently.
- When I have a consult with someone for a divorce, I generally know how the case will play out. From the legal standpoint, I can chart out what to do legally in the divorce proceedings to best position you for the best outcome for you financially and in regards to custody. As a Christ follower myself, my desire, though, is that you not just get legal guidance, but guidance that gives you hope.
- A divorce changes your diagnosis of hope. What you once hoped for in your marriage has now been shattered. You now need other things to hope for: such as a better future, a better life for you and your children and that your children will be unaffected by this disruption in their lives. Being children of divorced parents was not your plan for their lives and you are heartbroken about that.
How to get started with a Christian Divorce
- The first thing to do is obviously to pray. You will need a lot of prayer and prayer warriors through this time in your life. A divorce is like a death, you will experience a range of emotions. This is not a time to go into isolation and walk away from God. This is a time to draw near to him and lean on your friends’ faith to help pull you through.
- The second thing to do is to consult with an attorney who is a Christ follower. There are certain ways we as Christians are supposed to handle our grievances and conflicts. Unfortunately, the instructions given by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20 are not often followed in divorces or other conflicts. I think it is important to reach out to a Christian lawyer who understands Jesus’ instructions and the importance of handling conflicts with the goal of preserving relationships and maintaining your Christian witness and character.
- Practically, you need to assess your assets and goals for the divorce. These are some issues you will discuss with an attorney when you meet with her to discuss your divorce. For instance, what is the value of your house? Do you want to keep the house or sell it? What is the amount in your retirement account? What are the debts of the marriage? What is your monthly budget? Your income and that of your spouse is likewise important information to have available for the initial consult with an attorney.
- Most importantly, if you have children, you need to think through what will be in their best interest. Will it be primary physical custody with one parent or will you share custody 50/50?
Tips for Success in a Christian divorce
- I’ve handled divorces for people who had no assets and those with substantial assets. Regardless of the financial amount at issue, I’ve witnessed awful behavior such as hiding money, draining the joint bank account, and turning off utilities to the marital home in which the spouse and children reside. This behavior is oftentimes fueled by anger, resentment, pride, narcissism, and selfishness.
- The most important asset to any marriage is the children and a priority should be getting them through the divorce process unscathed. Leave the children out of your adult discussions. If one parent has behaved badly (such as committed adultery), the children should be shielded as much as possible from that. You should not speak badly of the other parent in front of the children nor should you allow others to . Also, don’t ask the children who they prefer to live with. That’s not fair to your child. You are asking them to choose between the parents they love. This is particularly true of younger children.
- Throughout a divorce, you must keep the faith. Even if your spouse is not proceeding in a way that is God honoring, you need to maintain your character, your faith. If you have chosen your attorney wisely, trust your attorney’s advice. When in the trenches of a divorce, hope will seem distant, but remember that perseverance ultimately produces hope. You will need to persevere.
- Jesus told us to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Mat 10:16). You are not to be a doormat in order to proceed through a divorce while maintaining your Christian character. Absolutely not. There may be compromise as there will be in any divorce, but you can stand firm and fight for what is fair and equitable based on the circumstances. You can stand firm and fight for your children.
Common Questions/FAQ About Divorce
- Question 1 What’s the first step?
- Consult with an attorney to learn your legal rights.
- Question 2 What’s next?
- I encourage people to talk and try to resolve their differences and proceed with an uncontested divorce.
- Question 3 How much does a divorce cost?
- It depends on several factors including your location, the complexity of your divorce, the other side’s willingness to negotiate in good faith, and the opposing attorney. Contested divorces can range from $2500 to $70,000 or more. I’ve had many clients pay well over $15,000 because the other side didn’t negotiate in good faith, there were a lot of issues that arose during litigation that had to be addressed through the courts, and because there was a lot of discovery to be conducted. Fees tend to be higher in metropolitan areas.
- Question 4 What is a contested divorce?
- A contested divorce is when a complaint for divorce is filed prior to the parties reaching an agreement. A complaint for divorce initiates the litigation process. So, when a complaint gets filed, the divorce process begins in the courts.
- Question 5 What is an uncontested divorce?
- An uncontested divorce is when you reach an agreement prior to the divorce complaint being filed. The settlement agreement will be drawn up and you each sign and file the agreement at the same time as filing the complaint for divorce.
- Question 6 How do I reach a settlement?
- The short answer to this is that you can structure your agreement however you believe is fair and equitable. Consult with an attorney to get some guidance for what is possible and permissible depending on your unique circumstances. However, you can divide assets however you want. You can also make your own decision as to custody and visitation of children.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Christian Divorce
- It is possible to practice your faith during a divorce. You can maintain your Christian character and witness. With the right attorney and much prayer, you can preserver and have hope. And hope does not disappoint
No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than those performed by other lawyers.