Derek Johnson Muses

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A Modern Civil Divorce

Divorce Court 15 Years Ago:

Judge to divorcing couple, “What’s your reason for divorcing?”

Couple, “Irreconcilable differences. All we do is yell at each other.”

Divorce Court Today.

Judge to divorcing couple, “What’s your reason for divorcing?”

Couple, “Irreconcilable differences.”

Judge, “What, you fight all the time?”

Couple, “No, we don’t fight. We just recently had a disagreement, and it’s going to lead to a bigger fight, so we’re just getting a preemptive divorce.”

Judge, “A preemptive divorce?”

Couple, “Yes.”

Judge, “You mean, you’re not really fighting..”

Couple, “No, but we will be. You see, your honor, Joe is taking a job that is eight hours away from where we live now.”

Judge, “So, Jane, why don’t you move with your husband?”

Jane, “I have a job I love here, and our children are just starting school. I don’t want to move them and leave my job.”

Judge, “So, Joe, your wife is happy here. Why don’t you want to stay here?”

Joe, “I do want to stay here.”

Judge, “You do? So why are you taking the job if you are willing to stay here with your wife?”

Jane, “Oh judge, I can’t ask Joe to stay here.”

Judge, “Ma’am, why are you speaking for your husband?”

Jane, “Please let me finish, your honor. He would resent me because he’d be staying in the same job he has now. It’s a mid-level management job, and he can do so much better. I don’t want to stand in the way of his happiness.”

Judge, “Joe, do you currently resent your wife for standing in the way of this job?”

Joe, (Pause) “No, but I will.”

Judge, “Jane, if you acknowledge that this job is what’s best for your husband, why is the right thing to get a divorce instead of moving? Can’t you find a job in the city he’s moving too?”

Jane, “It wouldn’t be the job I have now. I’ve worked so hard for my position, and I couldn’t possibly leave it.”

Judge, “And the two of you haven’t found much over this…”

Couple, “Oh, we’ve fought, but not as much as we are going to fight. We both know what’s best in the long-term is to split up now and spare each other the emotional damage.”

Judge, “It appears that you don’t have any serious emotional damage right now. And if you have no serious emotional damage, what business do you have in my courtroom?”

Where Family Experience Left Me

I grew up in a small family. My parents married shortly after college, but waited until they were in their thirties until they had my older sister and myself. It always bugged me that they didn’t have more kids. My sister and I would go out and socialize with other, larger homeschool families, many of whom had six or seven kids, from unions that began in their early twenties. My mother raised my sister and I in a large farmhouse, and because we never left for school in the morning, I learned to burrow in and find adventures in my own mind.

As I’ve grown into the world, I have lived a life mostly by myself, but recently, I have come to appreciate more how important large families can be. It started when I was watching Arrested Development on Netfix. I observed, whenever someone in the family had a problem, they went and talked about it with someone else in the family. The family, while not perfect, had a lot of different people to turn to when something bad happened, and a lot of bad stuff happened to this family. It got me to thinking: in our society, did we replace our brothers and sisters with therapists and life coaches? Was sexual promiscuity a way to replace our cousin Becky who told us about how sensitive some girls were, or uncle Bill who taught us how to change a tire? Was a family just God’s way of providing for many of our physical needs.

While our family isn’t exactly the closest, meddle-in-each-others business that some families are, it has been a great boon for me. I don’t have college debt because of my parents, and when I struggled to find a job after college, I was able to begin working for my dad’s company, a position that has afforded me a lot of flexibility.

In the years after I left college, I saw a number of people who were not as fortunate as I was. Having been homeschooled and gone to liberal arts, private college, I was stunned to met co-workers who literally had no curiosity about life, people, and relationships. Some had been burned by their parents’ divorce or their own, some had children out of wedlock they were trying to support. They simply went to their jobs and went home at night, never asking the question of what would make their lives better, or how they could serve their neighbor.

Over the past few months, I began reading a lot online about the marriage debate and about how birth control, and eventually abortion have changed our society, causing us to put our focus on what doesn’t matter. There were a number of influences: Jennifer Roeback Morse on Issues, Etc. and her own blog, dealing marriage and the sexually promiscuous culture; the book The Flip Side of Feminism by Suzanne Venker, calling out our modern generation of twenty-somethings for their entitlement and indulgence; and, most recently, Mark Preus’ paper on his natural family and fatherhood, and how it connects to the Biblical family.

This whole process of realizing the truth about family and life style choices has been very humbling, because of the years I’ve run of and hid in my own depression. But I have come to realize that I have to start making incremental changes in my attitude, the music I listen to, and even the stuff I read online. There are certain things I can’t change about myself right now. I don’t have the means to start a family (kind of need a woman for that), but I know I will come into it with a different attitude. I don’t know if I’ll even want to have kids of my own, but I’ve warmed to the possibility.


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