By America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts.
A study by the Pew Charitable Trust, and another entitled the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, offer clear proof that marriage is in decline in America, particularly among the middle class and in the African-American community.
Sadly, marriage among a white man and woman has declined by 20% over the past 40 years in the USA. Most of the decline has been among the middle class.
Even more distressing is the fact that marriage among African-American men and women has declined by over 50% in the same timeframe.
Given the importance of marriage as a stabilizing factor in America throughout our two and one-half centuries of existence as a nation – the glue to social order if you will – such declines in marriage should be of immense concern to all of us.
So, the most important question of the day is, why? Why is marriage in decline in the USA?
We have reflected on this issue recently after hearing the stories of others whom we have interviewed about the topic. We have concluded that the legal profession has a lot to do with the decline of marriage in the USA.
Think about this. The American legal profession is increasingly a “player” in marriage and divorce in this country. And as we muse about all this we have become more and more convinced that our legal system has, and perhaps unwittingly, contributed to the decline of marriage in America.
We have all seen the crass television commercials promoting legal services to men who want to keep “THEIR” money at the expense of their soon-to-be ex-wives and children. More depressing is our constant bombardment of horror stories about women who have spent their last dime trying to fight rich and powerful husbands for years in divorce court. It isn’t supposed to be this way.
While the legal system in divorce proceedings is principally designed to protect children and the mothers who have contributed mightily to the success of a husband throughout the course of a marriage, the lawyers have twisted it for financial gain, increasingly so in recent years.
Recently, when we interviewed several divorced women we heard poignant and compelling stories about how they sacrificed their own education so that they could support their husband’s career. They reported how they single-handedly raised their children while their husbands were in medical school, law school, or preparing for some other advanced academic degree. Unfortunately, their self-centered and narcissistic ex-husbands denied that their successes in life had anything to do with the sacrifices or contributions of their wife and their children.
It follows that these husbands think that the family home is “my home,” the savings and checking balances at the bank is “my money,” the automobiles and other assets are “mine,” and everything I have achieved are due to my efforts and not those of my wife or my family.
Therein lies the problem – men who think that all accumulated material wealth in a marriage is theirs! When the marriage starts to dissolve and one or the other files for divorce, the men suddenly proclaim that they are not responsible for child support or for spousal support.
Many of the women we have interviewed tell us that judges will often order the fair and equitable division of the family assets according to the laws of the state they reside in, the ex-husband will agree in writing, but often ends up appealing the decision to a higher court so that he does not have to share the family assets – the assets he considers his OWN! It goes on and on. And it isn’t fair!
There is something terribly wrong with this picture! But there is more.
Often times, judges will order child support and spousal maintenance only to have the ex-husband and his band of lawyers renege on the commitment. In most all states a husband is NOT allowed to unilaterally and arbitrarily decide to stop or withhold child and spousal support payments. Yet, many do and oftentimes, the judges let them get by with it! Sometimes, the judges will not support the very orders they delivered from the bench! How shameful is that?
We know of women whose ex’s unilaterally withheld child and spousal support that led to them being unable to make their house payments or put bread on the table. Imagine, making a decision that leads to the mother of your children losing the home that shelters the children and that puts food on the family table.
But it gets even worse. There are judges who will not punish the men who violate their orders to share the family assets and provide child and spousal support. Whatever happened to laws that protect the vulnerable? And for goodness sakes, whatever would possess a judge to not support the orders he gave from the bench?
Here is the point of all this – whatever happened to justice? Why do judges not support their own orders? Why do women and their children suffer unnecessarily in a court system that is designed to protect them? Why do the courts not support the level playing field they are obligated to support?
All of this discussion brings us back to our main question – are lawyers and the American legal system responsible, even partly so, for the decline of marriage in America? Our answer is, YES! Here’s why.
It is our thesis that many people are, indeed, avoiding marriage for a myriad of reasons too numerous to mention. However, one of the main reasons people are avoiding marriage is their fear of failing at marriage. Their fear of being forced to deal with the suffering and unfairness they might face in a corrupt legal system that cares little about them and so much more about protecting the powerful, the abusive, and the selfish.
The divorce laws in most states are designed to protect the children of marriage. They are designed to protect the women who make enormous contributions to a marriage. But why are those same women later denied those things for which they are entitled from that marriage as a result of spurious legal proceedings.
When you think about it, is it little wonder so many people are avoiding marriage? It seems clear to us that many fear the legal system they will face if their marriage doesn’t work out. The legal system seems increasingly hostile to women and children. The dangers of this are certainly something to be concerned about. Expect more from us on this topic.
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Winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book
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As America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts and award-winning authors, Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz help international audiences answer questions about love, marriage and relationships. With over 30 years of research on love and successful marriage across six continents of the world and their own 46-year marriage, the Doctors know what makes relationships work.
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