Name Change – ‘What Happened to Nancy?’

Each year, approximately three million women – about 90 percent of the women who marry – change their names when they marry. They give up their maiden names (now sometimes called “birth names”) and take their husbands’ surname.

Name change is traditional. It’s expected of a marrying woman in America, and it makes it easier when meeting people and introducing each other as a married couple. Name change can also avoid any suggestion that maybe the kids were born out of wedlock.

After all, what’s in a name? One young woman who married expressed a measure of disbelief many years ago when at the end of the ceremony the minister introduced her and her husband to family and friends as “Mr. and Mrs. William T ———–.” Realizing she’d lost her first and last name in a jiffy, she thought: “Hey, what happened to Nancy?”

Most women don’t think twice about it. But for some, name change becomes a personal struggle, especially career-oriented professionals who have worked hard to establish themselves and whose names are respected and widely recognized. For some women, keeping a name is a matter of convenience, or a social convention, or a political statement.

The Lucy Stone League promotes name choice equality and advocates for women who wish to retain their own names after marriage. Lucy Stone (1818 – 1893), the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree, spoke out for women’s rights and against slavery at a time when women were discouraged and prevented from public speaking. She is also remembered for keeping her maiden name after marriage.

The League sees the name change decision as a politically charged issue with far-reaching consequences. The tradition of marital name-change by women is so much a part of American culture, but some see it as a powerful instance of sex discrimination that has a major effect on women. When young girls are growing up, the argument goes, they see surrender of their identity into the identity of another, which diminishes the incentive to develop their full identities in adolescence. Some draw the comparison to some prison cultures, where inmates are given numbers and their names are taken from them. This practice strips away a sense of importance and humanity from the inmates; the tradition of women giving up their names is equally damning.

Last year, 29.5 percent of the women in the wedding section of The New York Times kept their names, compared to 26 percent in 2000 and 16.2 percent in 1990. “The pressure is huge,” says Laurie Scheuble, who studies marital naming as a professor of sociology at Penn State.

Writing in Sister, Columbia University’s feminist magazine, Tammy Jo Eckhart says: “Surnames are one of the most powerful tools used by patriarchy to deny women not only equal rights but even personhood. Tradition is the only reason why American women have taken their spouses’ surnames, since there have never been any laws in the United States dictating which surname must be taken upon marriage. Until very recently … some women have had to go to court in order to keep their maiden name or to change back to it after divorce or widowhood. Since the 1970s, it has been established that people may legally use whichever surname they wish …. But the assumption is still there, and it is promoted in all of our minds through … the attitudes of government agencies and officials, not to mention our neighbors’ and families’ reactions to those of us who have decided to buck tradition. I’m afraid that women who change their names are blindly promoting women as second-class persons, though I suspect that they themselves don’t think they are doing this …. To me the difference is whether the woman thought about the choice – just blindly doing anything is not acceptable.”

Women with established careers and women who marry when they’re older are less likely to change their names because they’ve established a reputation with their birth name and may feel that changing it would challenge the recognition they’ve already accomplished. For example, providing references for work done in the past, a woman who has changed her name would have to ask a potential employer to use her birth name when calling her references, as her old employers or professors will not recognize her by her new last name. This creates an inconvenience that for some women outweighs the benefits of changing their name.

Some women solve this by taking their husband’s name legally, but keep their birth name professionally. Others make their birth name their middle name and take their husband’s as a last name. Still others hyphenate their birth and married names. A few couples make up an entirely new name.

Even women who have thought about the choice and decided to stay with their maiden names find their thinking evolves over time. For many, convenience wins out in the long run as children enter the picture. And when they do change their names, they do so with little fuss. In her essay “The Maiden Name Debate” on, feminist Katie Roiphe observes:

“…[T]he maiden name is no longer a fraught political issue. These days, no one is shocked when an independent-minded woman takes her husband’s name….Today, the decision is one of convenience, of a kind of luxury — which name do you like the sound of? What do you feel like doing? ….In the end, many…have decided to change their names….because giving in to bureaucratic pressures is easier than clinging to their old identity….And then, of course, the beauty of the contemporary name change is that you don’t have to formally decide. You can keep your name professionally and socially, change your name for the purposes of school lists, or airline tickets…in short, you can maintain an extremely confusing relation to your own name (or names)…. Like much of today’s shallow, satisfying, lipstick feminism: One can, in the end, have it both ways.”

And if the marriage falters, reclaiming the original name is a very simple line entry on the divorce petition.

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Low Conflict Marriage, Low Conflict Divorce

When future Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmers struggled with the game, Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver asked him: “Are you going to get any better, or is this it?” Millions of husbands and wives struggle with that question in connection with their marriages. Secretly troubled that something in their marriage does not work, they fear it is not going to get any better and that this is as good as it gets. Sad more than miserable, disappointed more than chronically unhappy, they suffer melancholy: a brooding sadness about them that often lacks an obvious, tangible cause. In sooth, they know not why they are so sad, to paraphrase Shakespeare. The dream they once had for marriage slips into a soft focus, yet it tugs at them hauntingly. After several years, a marriage becomes a third person, a whole not reducible to the sum of its all-too-human creators, any more than a child is. For better or worse, the marriage has a life of its own and its own personality.

Sometimes, when they divorce, the melancholy spouses tell the world, “It is nobody’s fault, we just grew apart.”

These marriages – the so-called low conflict marriages – are ones where the river has reached sea level: there are rare arguments and partners treat each other with respect. Neither partner lives in a constant state of euphoria but both are satisfied. Some experts refer to this as a “good enough marriage” – not a fairytale but satisfactory.

The couple may see themselves as an average, middle class family, with two cars in the garage of their beautiful home and an active social life where friends and family gathered for regular get-togethers. It is a marriage where most of the needs of both spouses appear met. The children are secure, healthy and happy, and they have a good relationship with both parents and are not subjected to domestic violence in the home. One man likened his marriage to a pair of old shoes: worn out but too comfortable to throw out.

Naturally, when the couple announces they have reached the end of the road, their plans to divorce jolt family and friends who never suspected the couple would part ways.

Yet about 55% to 60% of divorces occur in low-conflict marriages, and here is where divorce does its damage. Divorces in these low-conflict marriages are very damaging to children, says sociologist Dr. Paul Amato of Penn State University, because the surprised children have not been aware of the discord. The first time they discover something is wrong is when they come home to find Dad gone. Dr. Amato says “[T]he irony is that these divorces occur in marriages where there is some kind of reconciliation, some kind of positive outcome possible if there were appropriate intervention.”

A study by Dr. Amato found two categories of children who are most at risk for future psychological problems: those who grow up with parents who stay married but remain conflicted and hostile, and those whose parents are in low-conflict marriages and divorce anyway. “Two different kinds of marriages that end in divorce have very different impacts on children as adults,” says Dr. Amato, whose research was published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family.

Amato and University of Pennsylvania sociologist Alan Booth tracked a sample of 2,000 couples and 700 of their children beginning in 1980 and interviewed them every three to five years. The researchers tried to learn what factors affected marital happiness, what predicted divorce, and how these factors, including divorce, affected children’s ability to form and maintain intimate relationships as adults.

After examining 300 failed marriages, the researchers identified high-and low-conflict marriages headed for divorce. The conventional wisdom is that most marriages that end in divorce are fraught with conflict, but Amato and Booth found the reverse: 60% of low-conflict marriages ended in divorce, compared with 40% of high-conflict ones. “I didn’t trust these findings, because they were counterintuitive,” Amato said. They checked the statistics against an independent sample of 5,000 married individuals who, before divorcing, were also interviewed every few years by researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The results were the same: 60% of low-conflict marriages ended as compared with 40% of high-conflict unions.

Amato’s research shifted the debate of divorce because “it changed the prevailing wisdom, which held that it was mostly families of high conflict that divorced,” said psychologist Judith S. Wallerstein, co-author of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce with psychologist Julia M. Lewis and writer Sandra Blakeslee. “What I found was most people who divorce are not in high conflict,” Wallerstein added.

Amato and Booth, authors of A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval, found that, post-divorce, children of high-conflict homes fared better than those of low-conflict marriages. “Being stuck in a household where there is a lot of discord puts children at greater risk for depression, problems in their own marriage when they do marry, problems in friendships and a tendency not to go on to college,” Amato said. “Divorce benefits these children because it removes them from an aversive, conflict-ridden, hostile home.” Perhaps most important, Amato said, divorce excises a negative role model of love from the home.

“If you ask what is wrong with the marriage, these couples just go on and on,” Amato said. “These are what you would call terrible marriages – marriages that fit our preconception of divorcing couples.” But children whose divorced parents had low-conflict marriages (that is, they rarely fought and reported being pretty happy during the marriage, then continued to socialize and said they still loved each other after divorce), fared worse in adult romantic relationships. “When kids grow up in families with parents who had these ‘good enough’ marriages that end in divorce, they do badly,” Amato said. “They are more likely to see their own marriages end in divorce and have problems in general forming intimate relationships.”

Children in low-conflict households grew up thinking everything was OK, Amato said, and then the marriage suddenly ended. To them, the divorce was inexplicable. “These children,” Amato said, “have trouble making a commitment, question how much one can trust love and commitment, and in marriage, they have a lower threshold for problems which trigger thoughts of divorce.”

Wallerstein found similar effects upon children whose parents’ divorces were not precipitated by conflict. “What I found from the children was that as adults they suffer from the fear of the second shoe dropping,” Wallerstein said. “I associate this with the fact that their parents’ divorce came out of the blue. They were horrified when their parents met them at the door after school and said, ‘We have decided to divorce.’ Some came home to find a parent gone.”

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Fighting Fair in a Divorce

Fair fighting rules in a divorce may seem like a contradiction in terms or even impossible, but rules of engagement resolve conflict, solve problems and help couples heading to the sunset of their marriage to get on with their lives.

Naturally, emotions run wild during separation or divorce when alienated partners try to decide alimony and property division, child custody and support. Lawyers unwittingly and wittingly can add fuel to what becomes a raging fire that left unchecked consumes the spouses, their children and their money.

The rules of engagement establish acceptable ways to resolve the inescapable differences that separating partners face. Fighting fair can save thousands of dollars in legal fees and months of stress for couples negotiating divorce settlement issues.

The fair fighting rules keep exchanges civil. Ripping into a spouse – a person once loved – may bring some short-term relief; in the long run, however, when negotiations seize shut because of angry words, only the lawyers benefit because they are paid win, lose or draw. Every time spouses disagree, overreact, or storm out of a discussion, the attorney gets paid for that appointment and the next one to go over the same cratered turf all over again.

But that is only money. The emotional cost cannot be calculated. Dwelling on frustrations makes a person even more frustrated, and battling wears on your ability to settle the past, regroup, and look ahead.

Cobb & Associates of Calgary, who are psychological counselors, offer these nine rules for couples to argue productively and creatively:

  • Rule #1: No degrading language: Avoid name-calling, insults, put-downs or swearing.
  • Rule #2: No blaming: It is pointless to blame each other. Blaming your spouse distracts you from solving the problem at hand. It invites your spouse to be defensive and escalates the argument.
  • Rule #3: No yelling: If it feels like yelling to your spouse, it probably is. Make a conscious effort to lower your voice.
  • Rule #4: No use of force: Including pushing, shoving, grabbing, hitting, punching, slapping, restraining, damaging property and throwing/breaking things. Each of us has the right to be safe & free of abuse.
  • Rule #6: Define yourself, not your spouse: Use words that describe how you feel, what you want and what is important to you – not what your partner feels, wants or believes.
  • Rule #7: Stay in the present: Keep your focus on what can be done today to resolve the issue at hand and go forward.
  • Rule #8: Take turns speaking: Let one person speak at a time. When one person speaks, the other should be listening – really listening, not just planning a rebuttal. Take turns speaking and listening so that both of you have a chance to say what you really need.
  • Rule #9: When necessary, use time outs: Remember: No amount of talking will lead to problem solving if you are not in a state of mind for solving problems.

Rule #5, which is “No talk of Divorce,” was left off the list because these rules are set forth for people who want to work things out. According to Nathan Cobb,“[i]n the heat of an argument, threatening to leave the relationship is manipulative and hurtful. It creates anxiety about being abandoned and undermines your ability to resolve your issues. It quickly erodes your partner’s confidence in your commitment to the relationship. Trust is not easily restored once it is broken in this way. It makes the problems in your relationship seem much bigger than they need to be.” Tellingly these fair fighting rules work for both people trying to work out a marriage and those who are trying to end one.

For some people, fair fighting rules represent a completely different way of fighting than what they know. Many people grow up in homes where yelling, blaming, name-calling and finger pointing are normal methods for handling disagreements.

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Courts and Families of the 21st Century

Many people have a mental picture of family life that looks like Ozzie and Harriet, but families of the 21st century come in all shapes and sizes.

The nuclear family – Dad at work, Mom at home and two kids in school – is now the exception that does not prove the rule. Today, divorce, remarriage, out-of-wedlock parenting and a variety of other variables have reworked the face of American family life. Fifty years ago, two biological parents raised their children at home, often with the support of an extended family nearby. When Mom had doubts about her parenting, she had only to turn to her Mom for a confidence boost. Today, for better or worse, that traditional, nuclear family moves to the Endangered Species List. Even in nuclear families, economic and cultural pressures on homemaker Mom and breadwinner Dad have transmuted the family so that it is impossible to define and designate an “average” family because the stereotypic breadwinner and homemaker roles rarely exist. Most households struggle to get by on the income of two full-time wage earners.

Today, personal mobility, which is prized by Americans, scatters families to the four corners of the country, and individuals no longer enjoy the support network parents once had. Once, extended family members lived close to one another, if not under the same roof. Today, grandparents flock to Florida or Arizona for the Golden Years while young adults pull up stakes in search of greater career opportunities anywhere they can. Thus, fewer and fewer families enjoy the built-in support networks of communities, where extended family members not only served as mentors and role models but often as a sounding board or emergency caregiver. In this routine, parents and grandparents were respected and looked to for guidance during tough times, and as a society, children learned and admired and respected their stories of endurance and survival. Elders served as role models who inspired hard work and perseverance. They weathered economic challenges, marital troubles and a myriad of other circumstances associated with their times.

Today, community recedes to the vanishing point. Neighbors are essentially strangers. When people drive 30, 60, 90 miles to work in nearby cities, they lose the connection with people who live next door and further diminish the sense of community and the support network people once took for granted.

Today’s families come in hundreds of shapes and sizes: single mothers, single fathers, grandparents raising grandchildren, multi-generational households 
because broken and blended families are now the norm. Even stepfamilies come in a variety of forms: everything from two partners with custody of their respective children to households where one partner has children and the other does not.

Stepfamilies in particular need encouragement and insight to help them recognize the inevitable hurdles before them. Custody arrangements following separation and divorce are almost as unique as snowflakes, says life coordinator Angie Blackwell. No two are the same. Legal and physical custody are no longer automatically awarded to the mother, and more and more, children ricochet back and forth between two households on a weekly basis.

Family educators and coaches help struggling parents meet the changing demands of family life as they grapple with major transitions – moving forward and balancing work and family life. A family coach helps parents in aligning personal goals and values and priorities. Coaches address a wide range of issues, from parenting toddlers to teenagers, childcare and elder care, and resources and referrals to connect to existing community services.

The culture changes far more rapidly than the law can catch up, and family law courts now grapple with the changes in American life and culture. Family law courts now routinely address disputes between unmarried parents, stepfamilies and third party caregivers, many of whom go into court without attorneys or pro se.

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One Family – One Judge

Judicial continuity through the life of a family law case, such as divorce or custody, enhances decision-making because the judicial officer becomes familiar with the case, the parties, and the issues that brought them to court.

Called the OFOJ model, the “one family, one judge” routine is considered a best practice in juvenile and family cases, according to the Resource Guidelines, a publication of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) of Reno, Nevada. The OFOJ model has been used successfully in Israel for almost 20 years.

In the one family, one judge regime, the same judge hears all divorce, custody and support matters involving one family, whether the issues unfold over weeks or over years.

Judge Leslie Gorbey, a Pennsylvania judge who served on the year 2000 task force, which made the recommendation to adopt the practice states “It’s considered one of the best practices.” “Anyone who is filing a complaint knows what courtroom they’re going to be in and what judge they’re going to be dealing with,” she said.

Gorbey and President Judge Joseph C. Madenspacher, a former family court judge, said the “one judge” approach gives families more stability.

“It keeps everyone on the same page,” Gorbey said. “We get to know people.” The approach also simplifies scheduling and saves time, Madenspacher said. The judge already knows a family’s general situation, which eliminates the need for lengthy review at each hearing. “The hearings are much shorter,” he said. “We can do it in two hours instead of doing it in two days.”

The “one judge” concept also eliminates “shopping” for a judge, Madenspacher said. Appeals are infrequent, since the parties would face the same judge. “Going back doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It’s highly unlikely [the judge] has changed their mind.”

Until recently there has been little empirical research to support its validity, but research now supports the OFOJ as a sound practice. Working with the Baltimore City Juvenile Court, a professor from the University of Maryland (UM) School of Social Work, in partnership with the NCJFCJ, assessed how OFOJ affects case processing and outcomes. Research staff and UM social work students designed and tested a stakeholder survey identifying perceptions of OFOJ and compared cases both before and after OFOJ implementation. The surveys focused on perceptions of the OFOJ model and how it had affected workload; the case file review focused on outcomes related to timeliness and permanency.

OFOJ and Timeliness

One 2013 study – “Improving Juvenile Dependency Case Timeliness Through Use of the One family, One Judge model, ” which was published Juvenile and Family Court Journal – demonstrated that every additional judge on the case increased time to permanency by 31 days. For children this means they spend one additional month in care per judge assigned to their case. Resolving cases quicker improves the courts’ ability to meet statutory timelines and better outcomes for children and families. Moreover, a follow-up study showed when there is only one judicial officer per case, the majority of cases have only one or no continuances. Every two judicial officers added to the case resulted in one additional continuance. This indicates that judicial continuity can be an effective way to improve case efficiency.

Results demonstrated that continuances delayed case events up to the adjudication hearing. However, they did not delay time to permanency.

OFOJ and Permanency Outcomes

A pre-post design – “ One Family, One judge Practice Effects on Children: Permanency Outcomes on Case Closure and Beyond” which was published in the Journal of Juvenile Justice – examined the effects of implementation of OFOJ on permanency outcomes. Based on a review of 89 cases, the results showed that post-implementation cases were more likely to result in reunification through dismissal of case petitions and reunifications within 12 months of removal compared to pre-implementation cases. There were no differences in reentry into care, implying that the timelier permanency outcomes did not result in detriments to safety.

Although limited in scope, this study provided a first step in examining judicial continuity in juvenile dependency case outcomes. Even without full implementation of OFOJ (Baltimore City oversees the emergency removal before assigning a case to a home court), the changes in judicial practice were related to improved permanency outcomes. While it may be hard to say that the OFOJ caused these changes, positive relations following the implementation were seen. Replication and expansion of this research with more rigorous methodology could provide a complete understanding of how important judicial continuity might be in complex cases such as these.

Professional Stakeholder’s Experience with OFOJ

Another study – “Professional Stakeholders’ Experience with Baltimore City’s One Family, One Judge Docketing,” which was published in Family Court Review – reported that overall, perceptions of the OFOJ model in Baltimore City are positive. Many stakeholders feel that it improves fairness and consistency of decision-making, at the same time not adversely affecting the court process. However, concerns were raised regarding the OFOJ practice. The majority of these focused on implementation, scheduling, and familiarity among stakeholders. Identifying these concerns and ways to mitigate them will help future courts address issues when or before they arise and provide material for continued research. This survey assessment provided valuable insight into the OFOJ practice and a solid foundation for future work.

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Newlyweds Old Hands at Marriage

Four of every 10 newlyweds have walked down the aisle before – either because they have been divorced or they are widowed, a new Pew Research Center report reveals. The Pew survey also showed that men are far more likely than women to marry someone who is at least 10 years younger, according to The Washington Post.

While most women think one marriage is enough, the Pew report says, most men want another walk to the altar after divorce or having become widowed.

“We’re not seeing an outbreak in remarriage fever,” Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, told the Post. “We’re seeing an increase in the number of people who are in a position to remarry.

“What’s happened is that the share of the population that’s divorced has risen greatly. In particular, the Baby Boomer generation – which experienced more divorce than any generation in history – is now in their 50s and 60s. They’ve lived long enough and there are now more of them to get remarried.”

Pew says 42 million adults married in 2013 – an increase of 22 million over 1980. More than one in five of those, 23 percent, had been married before, compared with 13 percent in 1960.

Remarriage has been on the rise for decades. Among all adults who are presently married, about one-fourth (23 percent) have been married before. This marks a dramatic increase from 1960, when only 13 percent of married adults had previously been married, and from 1980, when 17 percent had been. Among those married in the past 12 months, the share rises to 29 percent.

The trends in remarriage take place against a backdrop of striking changes in the prevalence and stability of marriage. The findings show how traditional marriage patterns have altered in recent decades, and reveal that these days, only 70 percent of adults will have married during their lives, compared with 85 percent in 1960.

Overall, marriage has been on the decline in the United States for several decades.  In 1960, 85 percent of adults had been married at some point in their lives. That share dropped to 80 percent in 1980 and to 70 percent in 2013. This so-called “retreat from marriage” has been driven largely by delays in marriage and unmarried cohabitation by couples living together without marriage. Over the same time period, there has been a rise in the share of marriages ending in divorce or widowhood, due in part to the aging of the population.  In 1960, 25 percent of ever-married adults had divorced or become widowed; by 2013 that share was 43 percent.

These dramatic changes in marriage and divorce increased the pool of adults who could remarry. In 1960, 21 percent of all adults had previously been married; by 1980, the share stood at 26 percent; and in 2013, 30 percent of adults had been married previously. Among this group, the share who has remarried has been quite stable for the past 50 years, in contrast to the declining share of adults who have ever married. In 2013, 57% of previously married adults had remarried, compared with 56% in 1960.

Despite the overall stability in the likelihood to remarry, there are notable differences by age, gender, race and other factors in the share of previously married adults who marry again.

According to the Pew findings center, 40 percent of marriages involve one spouse who’s been married before. In 20 percent of new marriages, both spouses have previously said “I do.”

“There’s so much dialogue right now about the retreat from marriage in general,” said Gretchen Livingston, a senior Pew Researcher and author of the study. “I was really curious to juxtapose that with what’s going on with remarriage.”

Livingston analyzed data from the 2013 American Community Survey as well as the 1960 and 1980 censuses and found that the number of remarried adults in the United States has hit 42 million, which is almost double the amount recorded in 1980 and triple the amount in 1960. But not everyone is jumping to remarry – after combining the hard data on remarriage patterns with the results of a recent Pew survey about marriage, Livingston found that specific demographics are actually less likely to remarry than others.

Among those who are divorced or widowed, age made a big difference in desire to remarry.

There are two demographic shifts that can account for this general surge in remarriage, according to Livingston. For one, the divorce rate is higher now than it was in 1960, so the number of people who are, as she put it, “eligible” to remarry has also risen. (But it’s worth noting that the divorce rate peaked in 1981 and has been slowly declining and leveling off ever since.)

The more influential factor in the high remarriage rate, however, is a longer life expectancy for partners, particularly among Baby Boomers. While only 34 percent of those who were 65 and older (and eligible to remarry) had remarried in 1960, 50 percent of that same demographic had remarried in 2013.

“The older you are, the more likely you are to have ever remarried, because you have more time in your life to have married once, gotten divorced or widowed and found someone else and remarried,” Livingston said.

Younger Americans went the opposite direction: 75 percent of people ages 25 to 34 and eligible to remarry were remarried in 1960, while only 43 percent of that same demographic were remarried in 2013. It’s very possible that this younger group of contemporary divorcees and widows hasn’t soured on the institution of marriage completely, however. Livingston pointed out that, since younger demographics have tended to delay marriage – the average age of first marriage is now about 27 for women and 29 for men, as opposed to 21 for women and 24 for men in 1960 – perhaps this group is content to cohabit with partners or advance the relationship in other ways, rather than jump into marriage number two.

Age wasn’t the only differentiating factor, though. When Pew polled participants for the aforementioned survey on marriage, they asked single men and women who had been married before if they would be willing to marry again. There was a clear gender divide: divorced or widowed men were more likely to want to remarry than women in the same position.

A majority of once-married, eligible men – 65 percent – either expressed a desire to remarry or were still considering it. In comparison, 43 percent of women said they’d be willing to remarry and 54 percent specifically didn’t want to ever marry again. Only 30 percent of men were completely against the idea of a second walk down the aisle.

Previous studies have suggested that men enjoy more health benefits, relationship satisfaction and economic perks from marriage than women do. Livingston said it’s quite possible that widowed or divorced men have more motivation to jump back into a new marriage and regain those aforementioned comforts.

Another interesting finding combined both age and gender: In remarriages, 16 percent of couples involve a husband who is at least 10 years older than his wife. This age gap falls to a mere 4 percent in first-time married couples. If you consider that 39 percent of first-time newlyweds (and 21 percent of remarried couples) are within a year of each other’s ages, this age gap among remarried couples becomes particularly noteworthy.

While today’s divorce rate might make newlyweds of the 1960s cringe, that doesn’t mean that today’s society has lost faith in marriage. In fact, according to Pew, previously married people these days are just as willing to remarry as they were back in 1960. Taken together, these findings can add more detail to an ever-shifting image of the American family.

“Maybe newlyweds don’t look quite as fresh-faced as they did in the late ’60s,” Livingston said, noting once again that 40 percent of today’s newlywed couples involve at least one person who’s been married before, “But I think it’s very striking and just another example of how the definitions of family and the norm are changing.”

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Fault vs. No-Fault

A spouse may divorce his or her partner in any jurisdiction in the United States, by simply telling the court the marriage is over. No one has to prove the other person caused the breakup. All the jurisdictions now offer no-fault divorce. California broke ground with no-fault in 1970; forty years later, New York became the last passing a no-fault law in 2010.

In seventeen states and the District of Columbia, no-fault divorce – which means the marriage is irretrievably broken – is the only way to end a marriage; each of these jurisdictions, however, customizes the application of no-fault divorce. No-fault only states include Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado and California. These states offer no traditional grounds, such as adultery, abandonment or cruelty.

The above-mentioned states do not permit divorce because of a partner’s wrongdoing, but some consider other factors and unusual circumstances, and the states describe no-fault in different ways, such as physical separation, irreconcilable differences and incompatibility of temperament. Several states also offer a third option, a hybrid between a fault and no-fault divorce. This third option is living separate and apart for a certain length of time. Separation requirements range from two months in Kentucky to 18 months in Connecticut and two years in Hawaii. Even some pure no-fault states, including Wisconsin, Washington, Nevada, Montana, Kentucky, Hawaii and the District of Columbia, recognize separation-based divorces in addition to their other no-fault options.

In the remaining 33 states, where states added no-fault legislation to their fault laws rather than eliminating the fault grounds entirely, a party can choose no-fault grounds but also may file on traditional fault grounds. These states have specific fault grounds; the most common ones are adultery, deviant sexual conduct, extreme cruelty or cruel and inhuman treatment, habitual drunkenness, mental illness, imprisonment, sexual desertion, drug addiction, and non-support.

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The Amicable Divorce – Divorce Without War

An amicable divorce means an uncontested or no contest divorce. An amicable divorce is not a “friendly” divorce, and make no mistake, “divorce [amicable or otherwise] is many kinds of agony. Amicable ones come with the surprising challenge of having no villain to blame,” writes Carolyn Hax, a Washington Post columnist.

Spouses who divorce amicably experience a “civil” divorce, which is one where neither spouse is completely happy but both spouses can live with the result.

An amicable divorce means agreement on matters including, but not limited to, child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, and property division – the core elements of a divorce. An amicable divorce happens when both spouses compromise.

The couple files the divorce paperwork in family court, and often there is a requisite separation or waiting period. The final divorce is subject to the court’s approval, and it incorporates terms and conditions the couple negotiated.

Spouses who agree on terms and conditions of their divorce not only save money but also spare each other the pain and suffering of a divorce war. Not surprisingly, every jurisdiction now has no contest divorce laws to foster expedited divorces, which in turn make for amicable divorces.

Couples considering amicable divorce should give consideration to several approaches. They include:

  • Collaborative divorce, which is a process handled out of court, where each spouse retains legal counsel and control negotiations. The spouses and their attorneys hammer out own agreements instead of surrendering control to the court. Collaborative divorce saves time and money. Lawyers facilitate the couple’s communication and continue to advise their respective clients, but all four work toward a settlement in a cooperative atmosphere.
  • Mediated divorce, where couples resolve issues out of court with the help of a mediator. The mediator helps the couple come to an amicable agreement. Some jurisdictions require couples to seek mediation on certain issues in divorce.
  • Pro se Divorce, where the spouses negotiate and file the paperwork with using no lawyer at all.  When the spouses agree about everything, one of them can file papers and seek court approval in most cases without lawyers. Most courts have forms available online or in the clerk’s office and there are many commercial templates available online at little to no cost.

Sometimes, therapists help spouses as they move toward an amicable agreement. Overcoming heated emotions keeps the spouses on track. Regardless of the specific approach taken, when divorcing spouses commit to developing compromises and solutions that work for both parties rather than fighting, the pain and suffering of any divorce subsides, and the legal process of divorce works more smoothly. In turn, the parties move forward individually and as a family more quickly with less pain, effort, and expense.

Moreover, working to achieve an amicable divorce alleviates loss and pain associated with divorce. “Even an amicable divorce creates feelings of loss and sadness. Often, the one who doesn’t want the divorce feels a sense of abandonment, anger or denial. Even the one who initiates the divorce experiences grief, sometimes guilt and, perhaps, shame,” says divorce mediator Eileen Coen. “Our best decisions are not made in anger, desperation or defensiveness.” She says that taking time to process emotions exerts a substantial impact the ability to keep the divorce amicable.

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Rights of the Unmarried Father

In all jurisdictions in the United States, the rights of unmarried fathers depend on whether or not he has legally established paternity.

Once paternity has been established, an unmarried father has the same rights as the mother or as a man who is married to the woman when the child was born; by comparison, the rights of unmarried fathers are virtually non-existent unless he has been legally determined to be the father. In most jurisdictions, although a putative, or alleged, father may claim that he is the father of a child, a man who was not married to the mother at the time of birth does not have a legal right to visitation, to make healthcare of school decisions, or to petition for custody unless paternity has been established. At the same time, however, absent a legal determination of paternity, an unmarried father is also not responsible for paying child support.

In family law, the establishment of paternity can is particularly important in the event the child’s mother wishes to surrender the child for adoption against the wishes of the father, or in the establishment of child support.

In order to protect the rights of unmarried fathers, state laws within the United States permit various methods of legally establishing paternity. Many fathers mistakenly believe that simply adding his name to the birth certificate legally establishes paternity. While listing the putative father’s name on the birth certificate is evidence that he may be the father, it is not conclusive evidence of paternity.

Each jurisdiction may have slightly different laws by which paternity may be established; however, there are common methods. Signing a paternity affidavit is generally the easiest way to legally establish paternity. A paternity affidavit is a legal document, signed by both the mother and the putative father, declaring that the putative father is, indeed, the legal father of the child. The affidavit is then filed with the health department and paternity is established. Paternity may also be establish by either the mother or the putative father filing a petition to establish paternity with the appropriate court, upon which the court will order a DNA test to confirm paternity.

Establishing paternity is the best way to protect the rights of unmarried fathers.

Once paternity has been established, the rights of unmarried fathers are the same as any other parent. An unmarried father will then have rights to visitation and decision making for the child in many cases, and he is also responsible for paying child support.

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