by Michael Heath
The term starter marriage is defined by Wikipedia as a first marriage that lasts five years and ends without the couple having any children together.
Many who are familiar with the phrase qualify it even further by adding that people in these unions are no more than 30 to 35 years of age. In other words, the two words side by side describes a short marriage between young people who have no children and little invested in the matrimonial union. Pamela Paul, who wrote The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony, helped introduce the term to the mainstream and found that too many young couples enter marriage with the wrong intentions. She discovered many unusual and disturbing reasons why young people tie the knot, and the following are some on her list: to complete a power couple, as a way of moving out of their parents’ home, a fascination with weddings, and the idea that it was easier to marry then it was to break up. These 20- to 30-somethings may have given too little thought to why they were getting wed, but if they later found themselves in a failed marriage they owed it to themselves to give greater consideration on how to divorce.
Marriage should be held in high regard and in no way do I advocate divorce, which clearly is not a positive life experience. The end of a romantic union sanctified in the eyes of God (if you are a believer) and/or certified by the state is a tragedy. However, marriages often fail and how they end is critical to the spouses’ chances to move on with their lives in satisfying ways. Litigated divorces can be extremely expensive and emotionally taxing, hampering people’s ability to build new futures. When a couple has little in assets and no children between them, it usually makes no sense to litigate the end of the marriage. This is especially true if the divorce is mostly amicable. In mediation and collaborative law, the intent is to work things out rather than fight them out. Mediation and collaborative law use cooperation as the foundation of their proceedings, as opposed to litigation that is based on an adversarial system employed by the courts. Possible exceptions to these alternative approaches would be when extreme physical abuse or substance abuse is part of the marriage. In instances like those, hiring a traditional divorce litigator would be better.
Couples who are not fighting and are in agreement on all the important issues can do a pro se divorce. Pro se is Latin for “by itself.” New Jersey couples can go onto the www.njcourts.gov website (divorce self-help pages) to get the required documents to be filled out. There are many firms throughout the state with marital paralegals who, for a small fee, assist couples in obtaining a pro se divorce. Many mediators can also help couples in this area. To learn more about pro se divorce, go to our article “Pro Se You Don’t Say“.
When young people find themselves in a hopeless marital situation, they will need to make some important decisions. Rather than run out and hire a divorce attorney, they should examine all their options. If they can divorce using mediation or collaborative law, they will most likely leave the marriage with less anger and more money in their pockets than if they had chosen litigation. Hopefully, when the divorce is final, they can move on with their lives in happiness while being wiser from the experience.