Divorce, a subject that has long been both a personal and societal issue, is often at the heart of impassioned debates across the globe.
For many, it signifies a fresh start, an escape from an unhealthy union, or the conclusion of a chapter in life.
However, others view it through a lens of moral or religious beliefs, asserting that it disrupts the sanctity of marriage.
While a majority of nations have acknowledged the myriad reasons that might lead a couple to part ways legally, there still remain pockets of the world where the act of seeking a divorce is not just frowned upon but outright illegal.
As we delve deeper into this subject, we’ll uncover the reasons, the histories, and the fervent discussions surrounding the illegality of divorce in these territories, offering a comprehensive understanding of a matter that touches the very core of human relationships.
Which Countries Have Made Divorce Illegal?
Today, only two places don’t allow divorce: The Philippines and Vatican City. Both believe strongly in keeping marriages together. But things change.
For example, Malta used to say “no” to divorce, but they changed their mind in 2011.
In the Philippines, there were times when divorce was okay, like when the US and Japan had some control there. But in 1949, they made a rule to stop it.
Australia also had rules against divorce a long time ago. But by 1975, they had made getting one easier, showing that views on this topic can change.
You can see the latest divorce rates in Australia here.
The Primary Arguments Illegal
Divorce, a dissolution of marriage, is common in many countries. However, it remains illegal in places like the Philippines and Vatican City.
But why? The answer, in large part, lies in the significant role that religion plays in shaping these nations’ legal and cultural landscapes.
Religion’s Role in the Prohibition of Divorce
Religion, particularly Roman Catholicism, profoundly impacts the cultural values and legal structures of several countries.
The Philippines and Vatican City are among the few nations where most of the population is Catholic.
Religious beliefs have played a crucial role in shaping laws in these territories, especially marriage-related ones.
Catholic Majority in the Philippines and Vatican City
With over 80% of its population identifying as Roman Catholic, the Philippines stands out as one of the few nations where divorce is still illegal.
The Catholic Church strongly opposes divorce, viewing marriage as a sacrament and an unbreakable bond between a man and a woman.
Vatican City, the epicenter of the Catholic Church, is another territory where divorce remains unrecognized.
Influence of Religious Beliefs on the Law
The teachings of the Catholic Church maintain that once married in the eyes of God, the couple becomes one, and this union should not be broken.
As a result, governments with a significant Catholic influence tend to align their civil laws with religious principles, ensuring that legal policies mirror Church doctrines.
What Are The Primary Arguments Against Making Divorce Illegal?
Around the world, divorce laws vary significantly, with some countries like the Philippines having strong legal restrictions against them.
But as societies change, evolve, and recognize the complexities of human relationships, the debate over whether divorce should be illegal gains momentum.
One critical factor fueling this debate is the alarming rate of domestic violence.
Arguments Against Should Divorce Be Illegal
- Human Rights and Personal Freedom: Marriage, at its core, is a union between two consenting adults. Many argue that if the relationship becomes unsustainable or harmful, individuals should have the legal right to end it without facing legal impediments.
- Children’s Welfare: Staying in a broken marriage might lead to a toxic environment for children, affecting their mental and emotional well-being. Divorce can sometimes be the lesser of two evils.
- Economic Considerations: A toxic marriage can lead to economic dependency where one party is financially disadvantaged. Divorce allows for a legal framework to ensure an equitable distribution of assets.
- Mental Health: Continuous exposure to an unhealthy marriage can have severe consequences for one’s mental health. Having the option to divorce can provide relief and a fresh start.
Domestic Violence: A Growing Concern
Alarming Rates of Domestic Violence Among Filipino Married Women
In the Philippines, the rate of domestic violence among married women is a significant concern.
A study revealed that many Filipino women have experienced physical, emotional, or psychological violence from their partners.
This paints a harrowing picture of the challenges many women face within the confines of marriage.
The Prohibition of Divorce and Its Link to Domestic Abuse
There’s a potential correlation between the prohibition of divorce and elevated rates of domestic violence.
Victims might endure prolonged periods of suffering when trapped in an abusive marriage without a legal way out.
The lack of an exit strategy can embolden perpetrators, knowing their victims have limited options.
Legislative Changes on the Horizon
Bill in the Philippines’ Lower House of Congress
There’s hope for change. The Philippines’ Lower House of Congress has passed a bill to legalize divorce. This landmark move reflects the growing demand for a legal mechanism to dissolve no longer tenable marriages.
Intent and Implications of the Bill
The primary intent behind the bill is to provide an avenue for couples in irreparable marriages to separate and start anew legally.
It acknowledges that some relationships, despite efforts, just cannot be saved.
If passed into law, this bill would revolutionize the Philippines’ matrimonial landscape, offering relief to countless individuals trapped in abusive or loveless unions.
What If Divorce Becomes Widely Accessible? Learning from Australia’s Historical Precedent
Divorce legislation and its nuances and implications vary globally, often reflecting a country’s cultural, religious, and historical context.
However, a common pattern observed in countries that have liberalized their divorce laws is a surge in divorce rates soon after. Australia’s experience after introducing the Family Law Act in 1975 provides a key insight.
Australia’s Experience: Post-1975
In 1975, Australia introduced a significant reform with the Family Law Act, which allowed for “no-fault” divorces.
Before this change, couples had to demonstrate that one partner was at fault due to reasons like adultery, cruelty, or desertion.
The 1975 Act changed the landscape by only requiring couples to prove an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, typically evidenced by a year of separation.
In the year following the introduction of the new law, in 1976, Australia saw a record number of divorces. It was the highest ever recorded in the country’s history at the time.
Couples who had been waiting for a more amicable way to end their marriages suddenly had a way out, and they took it.
The reasons for this surge are multifaceted
- Pent-up Demand: Many Australians were in unhappy marriages but had no tenable “fault” reason for divorce. With the introduction of the no-fault system, these couples now had the opportunity to separate without the blame game.
- Social Acceptance: The change in the law reflected and further propagated a shift in societal values. Divorce became more accepted and less stigmatized.
- Economic Implications: The new law provided a clearer framework for property division and spousal support, offering financial clarity to those seeking a divorce.
Speculation for the Philippines
Should divorce be illegal?
Drawing parallels with Australia, if the Philippines were to make divorce more accessible, one could speculate several outcomes:
- Initial Surge: Following the Australian model, the Philippines might also witness a significant rise in divorce rates as those in untenable marriages seek a long-awaited legal out.
- Cultural Reckoning: Given the strong Catholic influence in the Philippines, the societal reaction might be mixed. While many would welcome the change, conservative segments might resist or critique the shift.
- Economic and Legal Impacts: A clear framework would be needed to handle the potential surge in cases, addressing concerns like property distribution, child custody, and spousal support.
- Mental Health Implications: For many, the ability to legally exit an unhealthy marriage could offer significant mental and emotional relief. On the flip side, divorce can be emotionally taxing, necessitating support systems.
Should Divorce Be Illegal?
Debating the legalities of divorce? Justice Family Lawyers provide expert perspectives and guidance on marital laws. Want clarity? Speak with us today.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.