When Marriages Break: A Path of Hope for the Future
By E. Van Welton, Esq. and H. Robert Showers, Esq.
It is a sad reality that many marriages end in divorce. Considering that religious people often have strong convictions relating to the eternality of the marriage covenant, it is perhaps especially jarring to realize that marriages involving people of faith cease at relatively the same rate as those couples that claim no faith commitment. Throughout many churches, there are families who are experiencing the harmful and destructive consequences of divorce. Unfortunately, when spouses who have a faith commitment go to a Family Law attorney, they have generally reached the end of their emotional road and just want out, revenge, or both. However, even in these moments, there are better answers and ways forward that offer the potential for marital and family healing, rather than dissolution, more hatred and anger.
Scripture is clear that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). As the Creator of the institution of marriage, it was His divine plan for marriage to exist for life between one man and one woman. Still, as long as there is sin and rebellion in this world, the effects will extend to the marriage union, and the possibility of divorce will exist. Jesus said that divorce was a result of the “hardness” of man’s heart (Matthew 19:8). As sinners within a fallen world, husbands and wives sometimes behave to the detriment of their marriage.
Adding to the tragedy of the divorce itself is the fact that some marriages could have been saved if only the couple had sought out the necessary help to save their marriage. Struggling marriages involving people of faith not only need spiritual counsel, but also competent legal guidance. It is particularly useful for religious people to seek out attorneys of faith who are passionate about protecting the marriage covenant. This shields couples and children from the harmful effects of the Family Law system, which is usually more conducive to shattering family unity than supporting restoration.
It is commonly believed that the presence of a Family Law attorney automatically forecasts an impending divorce and difficult ending. Unfortunately, this is often the case. However, a Family Law attorney guided by a Judeo-Christian paradigm can actually help guide the couple toward marriage restoration, or at least a peaceful resolution going forward, especially if children are involved.
While not optimal, there are circumstances when a struggling couple finds it necessary to separate for a season. The sinful behavior that has attacked their marriage has risen to the crisis level making it no longer safe or wise for the couple to remain together. Sometimes, God can only begin to rebuild a marriage after a Christian couple has hit the spiritual “rock bottom” of separation. A Christian Family Law attorney can help guide a couple journeying through the perilous season of separation. Together with the attorney, the couple can address the issues of spousal support, property management, and perhaps child custody and support.
With a Christian attorney, a well-thought-out separation agreement can be developed that affirms each spouse’s responsibilities to the other and to their children. Through the guidance of counsel, a mutually beneficial agreement may be developed, despite the strong emotions that are always present. Moreover, a separation agreement can not only be more comprehensive and effective but far more cost efficient than going through a divorce.
A new trend among Christian couples who have found it necessary to separate is to include within their separation agreement mutual obligations to remain engaged with their local church. The goal is to promote continued community with fellow believers who would want the best for the couple’s marriage. Consequently, isolation and harmful messaging to the church and community can be virtually eliminated.
A Christian separation agreement may also include criteria that would enable communication between the spouses. Often, when a couple separates, all communication breaks down. Restoration is virtually impossible when the couple cannot even speak with each other. A Christian separation agreement can help define when and where a couple can safely and effectively discuss their problems. The agreement may name a particular counselor and/or pastor for the couple to work with. The agreement may also help to narrow the issues to be targeted. In the agreement, a Christian Dispute Resolution clause can be added to avoid costly and painful court proceedings, except in abusive situations.
Of course, a good Christian separation agreement should help to foster each spouse’s continued relationship with their children. If the situation permits, the agreement can encourage and guide healthy parenting opportunities. The agreement can also help ensure that important dates are not missed by either parent, and that each parent continues to have input into the overall welfare of their children.
Once the peripheral issues are resolved, the couple is free to give their full attention to their reconciliation efforts or at least making sure a good relationship is established between the children and both parents. The couple may now devote themselves to their individual spiritual renewal, an essential step before their union can be restored and peace in the relationship established once again.
Marriage restoration must be birthed in the heart of each spouse in order for it to work. That longing is only planted by God. While a secular attorney can exacerbate the struggle and conflict, a Christian attorney should strive to be a conduit for restoration and peace. Obviously, the Christian attorney cannot replace the work of the Holy Spirit but he/she can be an instrument or willing player in what God is doing in the midst of a terrible situation. Only when the Holy Spirit is given unobstructed and exclusive access to a troubled heart is restoration possible.
The good news is that God specializes in restoration, peace and order. The heart of the Christian Gospel message centers on the restorative work of Christ on the cross. Through His sacrificial work, He enables sinful man to be restored to a loving Creator. The opportunity through faith traditions exists to restore every marriage but it takes hard work. If, however, a couple is willing to surrender to the process, nothing is impossible.
The attorneys at Simms Showers, LLP seek to provide much needed legal services designed to assist those couples who desire to do what it takes to save their marriage, or at least have a peaceful end and create a hope for the future for their children and themselves. This makes this approach uniquely suited for people of faith since the secular process typically seeks power, money and often revenge. Simms Showers attorneys will work with clients to promote marriage defense, restoration, and the protection of the innocent. Of course, when abuse or infidelity are involved, our attorneys will work diligently to protect the rights and welfare of the aggrieved spouse and children, including the pursuit of legal consequences against the offending spouse. In these extreme situations, we recognize that separation is often necessary and restoration is not always possible or advisable.
Simms Showers, LLP’s Marriage Defense and Family Law practice area is a new resource for churches to turn to for assistance with strengthening families, defending the institution of marriage and restoring relationships. No longer must pastors refer a wrecked family to an attorney with questionable motives or an improper focus on financial gain. The attorneys at Simms Showers will provide Biblical counsel with the hope that their services will help restore the family. The attorneys at Simms Showers have provided trusted counsel for churches and other non-profits for over twenty- five years. Now through its Family Law attorney and long-time former pastor, Van Welton, Simms Showers is offering that same commitment to individuals and couples who are contemplating divorce or enduring its aftermath.
Mr. Welton has a proven track record of providing assistance to hurting families. Before joining Simms Showers, Mr. Welton served for over twenty years as a minister. With its new focus, Simms Showers is intentionally moving to elevate and protect the value of marriage which is why we have included “Marriage Defense” in the name of the new practice area instead of “Divorce.” Partners Robert Showers, Caleb Kershner, and Of Counsel attorney Van Welton, along with other Simms Showers attorneys, are available for consultations to address your needs, or the Family Law need of someone in your church, family, or community.
Disclaimer: This memorandum is provided for general information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice particular to your situation. No recipients of this memo should act or refrain from acting solely on the basis of this memorandum without seeking professional legal counsel. Simms Showers, LLP expressly disclaims all liability relating to actions taken or not taken based solely on the content of this memorandum. Please contact H. Robert Showers at firstname.lastname@example.org or E. Van Welton at email@example.com for legal advice that will meet your specific need or to set up a consultation.