What to Do When Politics Affect Divorce
Welcome to my regular column, Discourse on Divorce. In this edition, I look at divorces that are affected by opposing political views and how attorneys can handle divorces under these circumstances.
In the past few years, with our country’s changing and heightened political environment, it seems that politics have become much more prevalent in everyday life. Consequently, political conversations have become commonplace, enabling people to vocalize their political views. For many people, no matter on which side of the political aisle they fall, the country’s amplified political environment and discussion has affected their relationships.
As seemingly more people than ever before have joined in on the country’s ongoing political conversation, political views have become a polarizing factor in couples’ relationships.
Our increasingly divided country is currently making it difficult for some families to have civil conversations, legitimate debates or even post on social media. When they do, they may realize that being on conflicting sides of the political debate makes them feel alone in their marriage.
In my practice, there have been times when politics have been mentioned as part of what drive a couple apart. While it is never the only factor, it has become a more common aspect of divorce proceedings over the past few years.
In fact, there are many couples who have fallen into what is being called the “Trump Divorce.” In 2017, Wakefield Research conducted a study titled “Trump Effect on American Relationships.” It asked 1,000 participants nationwide whether their relationship “has been negatively impacted specifically due to President Trump’s election.”
The study found that 29 percent of Americans who are either married or in a relationship said the current political climate in our country is causing pressure with their spouse or partner.
Furthermore, 24 percent of Americans in a relationship or married reported that since the most recent presidential election they have argued or disagreed about politics more than usual. The Wakefield survey also found that 11 percent of Americans have ended a relationship over political differences.
Additionally, 22 percent said they knew a couple whose relationship had been impacted by politics. The polarizing effect Trump has is not only changing politics but is seeping into friendships, dating and marriage.
For millennials, the numbers climb even higher, with 35 percent of people under the age of 36 saying that they know someone whose marriage or relationship was negatively impacted by conflicting political views.
The current political climate has sprouted many dividing stances and many couples are having trouble coming to an agreement over how they see certain policies.
Part of what makes this political journey harder for some couples to weather is that when couples decide to get married, they feel they know each other inside and out. They can name their partner’s favorite ice cream flavor, cereal, TV show, family history and more.
They may not agree on politics always, but underneath feel they have the same values. Which is why when partners take different sides in a political debate, it can be confusing and feel like a form of betrayal.
One doomed marriage that made headlines was between Miami Dolphins cheerleader Lynn Aronberg and her husband Dave, a Palm Beach County state attorney in Florida. Their divorce was written about in the press and online due to the political problems that cropped up.
Lynn is a Trump supporter and posted pictures on social media where she stood with Donald Trump and Melania at an event. Dave, on the other hand, is a member of the Democratic Party and considering a run for the U.S. House.
Despite having known when they became engaged that Lynn was a Republican and Dave a Democrat, the couple believed they could navigate a mixed politics marriage. However, that quickly proved wrong when Lynn released a statement saying that she and her husband were separating. She said she felt “increasingly isolated” in her marriage.
While Lynn and Dave are not the norm, they are far from alone in falling for someone who does not share their political views.
According to a Yale University study, 70 percent of married couples believe in the same political party, while 30 percent belong to different parties.
Because political parties can stand for certain morals or values, it is no surprise that most marry people who hold their same political views. What’s important to remember is if politics played a part in breaking up a marriage, those same problems will most likely plague the couple after a divorce.
Issues for divorcing couples such as custody, child support and property division can be harder for couples who have opposing values to agree on.
That’s why it’s important as the divorce attorney to ask the client for specific details. It is helpful to know why the divorce is occurring and what changes have brought upon this situation as it can shape how to handle the divorce proceedings.
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