You May “UNKISS” the Bride: Divorce on the Internet?

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Last week I wrote about getting married on the Internet (You May Kiss the Bride: Marrying on the Internet?- https://www.liberianobserver.com/content/you-may-kiss-bride-getting-married-internet). That article sparked a debate on Facebook and “earned” me several emails. Most of the respondents agreed that getting married on the Internet is cost effective while others took it to a different level and questioned why it is even illegal. And then there were those who shared my optimism that Internet marriage will someday be legal. Overall, there are strong arguments regarding this topic. But, if marriage on the Internet is illegal, then my question is: Is divorce on the Internet illegal as well?  If it isn’t, is it considered less costly? The answer to the former is no and the answer to the latter is yes. Internet divorce is legal and less costly, and not only is it legal, but courts in the United States actively promote the application for divorce online.

Nowadays there are way too many couples seeking divorce which may be due to several reasons; some say Facebook, others say finances, while others unable or unwilling to pinpoint any one reason simply claim irreconcilable differences. Many believe the evolution of technology, which is considered the facilitator of moral infidelity, has brought an increase in the number of divorce cases in societies. Technologies such as the phones (land line and cell phones), the Internet, social networks (FACEBOOK especially), the car, and now (in Liberia) the “pehn pehn” (motorcycle) are said to be major catalysts of marital infidelities that lead to divorce. The cell phone, I heard facilitates communication while the “pehn pehn” facilitates speedy transportation to the rendezvous.  Personally, I feel divorce comes so frequently these days because people just don’t ‘marry for the right reason. Some marry for money, security, fame, material things, immigration (Green Card), to name a few.  Interestingly, lawyers have claimed that Facebook is cited as the cause of one in five online divorce petitions. 

Divorce can be costly and stressful for both parties, but most of all, it is a very painful experience. Unfortunately it has become common in our society; so common that it can be done on the Internet for as little as $200. An internet divorce is now considered the cheapest way to have your marriage legally dissolved. If you're in the United States for example,  and there are no children,  property or finances to settle, then you can do it yourself or through one of the many online legal service providers. One of those “Legal Service Providers” or “LSPs” is LegalZoom.com. Legal Zoom has a standard divorce package that costs $299. It’s interesting though, people spend at least $20,000 to get married while some only spend $200 to get divorced (uncontested divorce).  Ok, let me get back to the topic; divorcing on the Internet.

Before embarking on a divorce whether on the Internet or using the traditional methods, the first thing you should seek is advice. Your first source of advice should be from family members and perhaps your priest or someone you confide it. This can be tricky especially when it involves family members. You see, sometimes family members do help exacerbate marital problems that lead to divorce. So, I would say just go to your priest or reverend. 

Your next source of advice can be the Internet. You can obtain free advice, from many web sites which exist to help people in their time of distress. The Internet provides several media where you can hear from people who have gone through a divorce and their experience may be of practical help to you. Some of these sites even have professionals who can answer any divorce questions.

Next, try to familiarize yourself with the divorce rules of the state or country in which you intend to apply. Know the requirements well before proceeding. Most importantly, make an agreement with your spouse in writing about the terms involving children, properties, finances, etc. Doing this is important because if there is a disagreement, you will have to attend court. Although Internet divorce may not require you to go to court, know that the divorce itself cannot actually be finalized over the internet. Divorce is still a court proceeding, and therefore your local court will have to be involved in the final stages.

Previously, I mentioned Legal Zoom’s standard divorce package cost as an example of the cost of an Internet initiated divorce. The cost actually varies by service provider. Obtaining the forms to file is either very cheap or can be gotten free from divorceguide.com. Divorceguide.com also provides all sorts of help and guidance in completing and serving the forms.Once you complete the forms and follow all necessary procedures, you might just get divorced without stress, spending exorbitantly or visiting a courthouse. Again the key to a seamless Internet divorce is an uncontested divorce. If you have an angry spouse on your back, then consider the traditional route.

As always, I asked a friend who is a lawyer as to the application of Internet divorce in Liberia. I was informed that courts in Liberia require a certain format and language as part of the civil procedure law; that's the standard.  Also, that most “off-the-shelf attorney software” can be adapted to meet the Liberian code. 

The way I understand this, if the requirements of the Liberian court system are met, then a person can actually get an Internet divorce. Talk about the Internet’s ubiquity!!!

Most of us have parents who boast of marriages and UNIONS that have lasted over 10, 20, 30 years. As a matter of fact, I am a product of a union that lasted over 45 years; until the death of my father. Today, that doesn’t happen anymore. We’ve got marriages that end three to six months after the wedding date, which, in my opinion is pathetic. In fact, to prove my disdain for this, I have informed my friends and family members who ask me to participate in their wedding events,  that we must sign an agreement which states that if I attend, and the marriage doesn’t last more than five years, I will get refunded for all my expenses.

Finally, while online divorce is arguably the cheapest method of obtaining a divorce, I am not an advocate of it or any form of divorce. But I am fully cognizant of the fact that oftentimes divorce is just inevitable. I do however like the traditional African approach to settling issues between spouses which involves sitting under the palava hut with elders, and finding an amicable and fair solution to a marital problem. There aren’t any fees, Internet filings, and all that nonsense; there are only traditional, God-fearing values. This approach, unlike the modern or civilized one, seeks primarily to keep the marriage intact. Could it be the reasons why our parents’ marriage lasted longer? I reckon it is!

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