Monday, August 30, 2010

Divorced with Benefits

In the long list of the myriad of methods in which people bond into family, a particularly interesting one is where the couple is no longer married yet continues to couple.

The joke about sleeping with your ex being like eating leftovers you rejected the first time notwithstanding, some couples do genuinely find it more difficult to break the bond of sex than of marriage and remain in an intimate relationship for years after divorce. 

Some couples enjoy the release from the obligations of marriage and the new found casualness of being divorced with benefits.  One former client's ex husband called it "coming over for coffee." 

I'm not a psychologist so I'll not delve into the extensive why issues, but all the judges I know have been around the block more than a few times and very little surprises them.  To learn that a couple remained intimate for years after a divorce and only recently have had a falling out resuling in that Contempt the ex-wife had been meaning to file for some time now, would not elicit expressions of shock, dismay, disgust or dismissal from a judge.

Nor does it make a whole lot of difference to a couple's legal status. 

Back when Georgia acknowledged Common Law marriages, I represented a woman who wanted a divorce from her Common Law husband.  The parties agreed they had gotten a divorce from their legal marriage some years before.  The husband denied that he had ever resumed a relationship with his ex that rose to the level of Common Law marriage.  Of course, if he hadn't listed her as wife on all of his insurance, real estate, loan and banking forms, hadn't told the whole world that his ex was again his wife and hadn't posed for umpteen pictures with the re-established family as he brandished the brand new, diamond encrusted wedding ring, he might have had a point.

But you get my point.  If you have to work that hard to change your legal relationship, you can probably do a lot and preserve your divorced status.  And Georgia doesn't even acknowledge any newly created Common Law marriages anymore.

Another situation arises when the couple resumes quasi habitation so that the child, who post divorce has a primary custodian and a secondary custodian, is somewhat living with both parents again.  Months if not years pass before the camel's back again becomes so burdened that some inevitable straw renders it asunder when the primary custodian suddenly recalls the vast amounts of child support which have gone unpaid.  Are there any writings which express that the primary custodian accepted the secondary custodian's financial assistance as satisfaction of the child support obligation?  Of course not.  These people were wooing each other, not writing contracts.

So we're off to the races with a large purse in play.  And some potential for legal injustice to ensue.

And that gives new meaning to Divorced with Benefits.

Michael Manely

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