What Will Your Divorce Ceremony or Ritual Look Like?

The legal process of divorce does nothing to heal the emotional pain caused by ending a marriage relationship. Filing final papers in court makes you legally single, but healing the damage to your psyche follows an unrelated timetable.  Divorce can be even more traumatic than the death of a loved one. Instead of a loss fixed in time, the end of a marriage can seem like a death of a thousand cuts.

Like a marriage ceremony brings two people together, a divorce ceremony or ritual places you and your spouse on separate paths and promotes emotional healing.  It can be a private ritual involving just yourself, your immediate family, or one or two close friends.  You can involve a larger group of people, and help them feel more comfortable about the breakup as well.  It can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose.  There is even a newly published book with suggested divorce rituals.  The important point is to give it meaning that promotes dignity, respect and healing.

Robert Fulghum, signing his book What On Earth...

Robert Fulghum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author Robert Fulghum writes about ritual as follows: “Meaningful rituals have a lot to do with gaining that inner harmony and making letting go as much a part of life as holding on.  Rituals anchor us to a center while freeing us to move on and confront the everlasting unpredictability of life.  The paradox of ritual patterns and sacred habits is that they simultaneously serve as solid footing and springboard, providing a stable dynamic in our lives.”  From Beginning To End, the Rituals of Our Lives.  Random House, 1995 (p. 265).

A divorce ceremony or ritual serves an important dual purpose.  It helps you let go of the past – to place a period on a chapter of your life.  You are then free to spring into the next chapter of your life – minus the burdens you intentionally leave to the past.

Too much analysis of your divorce ceremony can lead to paralysis.  Give some thought to what works for you, but don’t be afraid to trust your instincts.  Your divorce ceremony can be as elaborate as a wedding reception (complete with divorce vows), or as simple as a meditation (or smashing something into small pieces).  You and your ex might plan something together.  Your circumstances might call for you to plan an event on your own.  Any ritual or ceremony that speaks to you will work, but it does require some action on your part.  The internet has resources to plan your divorce ritual or ceremony.  Do some research.  Talk to your counselor, your spiritual advisor, or a close friend. Don’t just read about it or think about it.  Plan it and do it.  You’ll be glad you did.

by David Tracy


Obamacare And Divorce – It’s Still Complicated

Senate Passes Insurance Industry Aid Bill

(Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

The U S Supreme Court largely upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) last week.  The ACA provides more options in coming years for divorcing families who face health care choices.  However, many of the means to the end of making health care more  available and affordable remain to be set. The major goals of the ACA, and its promise for the divorced population, still hang in the balance.

Over the course of ten years, nearly half of the non-elderly population will go without health insurance for some time (U.S. Dept. of Treasury 2009).  Many of these people lose coverage due to a divorce. A lack of cost-effective alternatives often leads to gaps in health insurance.

The traditional method of continuing coverage for the last generation is COBRA (named for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act which created it).  COBRA allows someone no longer eligible for group coverage to continue on the policy as an individual for up to 36 months after a divorce.  The employer contributes nothing to the coverage cost, making it cost-prohibitive for many.

If COBRA coverage is not practical, one historically had to explore other alternatives.

  • Find a job with a group health benefit.
  • Buy coverage in the individual health insurance market.
  • Qualify for a public program such as Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (SoonerCare in Oklahoma).
  • Go without insurance, cross your fingers and hope for good health.

Those with pre-existing conditions faced added challenges, as they are thrown into high-risk pools with high costs and coverage exclusions.   Many private insurers will decline coverage, make it unaffordable, or make it ineffective with exclusions.  This will change quite a bit under the ACA.

Some changes under the ACA are already in effect.

  • Health plans cannot drop your coverage when you develop an illness or medical condition.
  • You may cover your children on your group health policy up to age 26.
  • Your children will not be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition.
  • Your plan cannot impose annual or lifetime dollar limits for essential health benefits.
  • The Oklahoma Temporary High Risk Pool provides a bridge program to temporarily cover people who cannot get coverage elsewhere due to pre-existing conditions.  You have to go uninsured for 6 months to qualify for temporary high-risk coverage.

Some changes easing the challenge of post-divorce insurance planning do not take effect until January of 2014.

  • If not covered by an employer plan, people must either get health insurance on their own, pay a penalty on their income tax, or qualify for an exemption.
  • States, or the federal government by default, will set up health insurance exchanges.  These exchanges will outline the competing health insurance plans available to you, and the premium for coverage.
  • The exchange will also offer calculators to figure cost-sharing reductions and premium tax credits available depending on your income and coverage.
  • The amount of the subsidy you’re eligible for will depend on your income. Those with incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($43,560 for an individual and $89,400 for a family of four in 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation) are eligible for premium assistance credits.

The exchanges hold promise for an added cost-effective alternative for divorcing spouses and families.  the U. S. Secretary of Health and Human Services must develop rules for making premium tax credit eligibility determinations based on changes in circumstance, such as a divorce.  We should all stay alert to the when and how of the exchanges, and the premium subsidies.  They will become part of divorce planning very soon.

by David Tracy

Link to Text of the Affordable Care Act

How the Affordable Care Act Affects You, CBS News Money Watch, June 29, 2012

The Promise of the Affordable Care Act, the Practical Realities of Implementation: Maintaining Health Coverage During Life Transitions, O’Leary, Capell, Jacobs, and Lucia, Center for Labor Research and Education, University of California, Berkeley; Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, UC Berkeley School of Law (2011)

Health Reform Subsidy Calculator, Kaiser Family Foundation

Supreme Court Ruling Making Medicaid Expansion Optional Gives Fallin A Big Decision, Tulsa World, July 3, 2012

Terminating Parental Rights Is Not A Quick Fix For A Poor Parenting Relationship

Can one parent waive receiving child support, the other parent waive visitation, and the parents agree to terminate the rights of the non-paying, non-visiting parent?  Family law attorneys answer this question regularly.   The short answer in Oklahoma is no.

The Oklahoma Legislature repealed the statute authorizing private termination of parental rights in 1997.  A parent can still lose his or her parental rights in Oklahoma in the following ways:

  • The state can move to terminate parental rights in a juvenile case for deprived children.
  • A judge in an adoption case can declare a child eligible for adoption without the consent of a parent in some circumstances.

Unless there is an adoption or a juvenile case in the works, living parents keep all the rights and obligations of a parent. A person’s status as a parent is a fundamental constitutional right, subject to due process and equal protection under the law. Your options are limited to enforcing or modifying those rights and obligations.

Sometimes a parent  will try to come back into a child’s life after an extended voluntary separation.  Both parents in that situation must put the interests of the child above their own.  The formerly absent parent may want to rush a relationship to make up for lost time. An active parent who has taken up slack for an absent parent will often resist efforts at reunification out of resentment or anger at the other parent.  Remember, though, this is about the child, and the child’s needs.

Do your best to identify and meet your child’s needs, setting aside your own.  Both parents must strike a balance between a child’s need to have a relationship with both parents, and the child’s need to adjust to changes in family circumstance.  If you cannot strike that balance by  agreement, you may need the help of the family court to oversee custody and parenting time decisions.

by David Tracy