Updated: Jul 10, 2022
In the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz", Dorothy was heard to observe; “My, people come and go so quickly here.” While speaking in a different context, she could easily have been talking about the process of divorce. Let’s take a look at the various ways that countries around the world make it harder or easier to “come and go.” First, we start with the countries that make it hard to leave your lover.
How about making divorce non-existent? In Vatican City (an independent Catholic-run country controlled by the Pope) citizens are not allowed to divorce. Given how many citizens of the Papal City are Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Nuns or people who work for the Vatican, this is not a major issue, especially since they are not married.
Similarly, divorce is not permitted in the Philippines. The one exception to this country-wide prohibition is for Muslim citizens (5% of the population) who are allowed to obtain a religious divorce. Over the last several years, proposed statutes allowing divorce have come closer to passing but there is still fierce opposition to the change. The country is so opposed to divorce that if you get one somewhere else the Philippines will not recognize it.
Another largely Christian country, Chile, did not permit its citizens to divorce until 2004. Even with the change, the government still makes it extremely difficult to get out of your marriage. Currently, there is a lengthy waiting period which must be complied with. If a couple mutually agrees to split up there is a one year period of separation required before they may seek a divorce. However, if one of the spouses opposes the divorce, there is a three year period of separation required, absent significant fault issues such as infidelity, drug addiction or abuse.
In France, even the grave offers no relief from marriage. France permits a “posthumous” marriage if you can prove that the dead person “intended to marry you.” Go ahead, ask him. He’ll tell you.
While many countries have made it harder to get a divorce, others seem to make it available for almost any reason. In Samoa, a woman has the right to divorce her husband if he forgets her birthday. And in Saudi Arabia, a husband is risking a divorce if he doesn’t bring his wife the cup of coffee she asked for.
Similarly, getting a divorce in Japan is pretty simple, if you are not fighting about custody of the children. There is no need to go to divorce court. Rather the unhappy couple can sign and file a simple form. However, Japan has no provision for “joint custody” of the child or children, making custody battles long, expensive and acrimonious.
Finally, in Australia, Aboriginal women can have a divorce for the asking. If she asks her husband for a divorce and he says “yes” the marriage is over. Alternatively she can simply say “I do” to another man and she is then considered divorced from her husband. Apparently inspired by the ease of such an “uncoupling”, the American actress Lisa Bonet and her actor husband Jason (“Aquaman”) Momoa recently declared after an 18 year relationship, “we free each other to be who we are learning to become.” Call me a pessimist but I think that it is going to be a lot harder than that once the divorce attorneys get involved.
Closer to home a number of different states in the US have interesting laws about grounds for divorce. In Delaware, you can get a divorce if the marriage was the product of a jest (“I was only kidding”) or a dare (“I Double Dog Dare You”). In Tennessee, a husband was able get a divorce if he left his wife a certain amount of dried beans, dried apples and yarn to knit stockings.
And no more of those mother-in-law jokes. In Kansas a divorce is available if you don’t get along with your in-laws. Finally, in Mississippi you can leave your spouse if they are an idiot. Boy, talk about making divorce easy.