Young and Divorced

by Peter Magee on January 23, 2013

Peter Magee

In an article called “Young, Beautiful and Divorced” published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 23 September 2012, Nina Karnikowski, discusses divorce of those in their twenties.

Ms Karnikowski states that although “no one enters marriage anticipating divorce, especially not within the first few years,” statistics show that the younger the person marries, the more likely they are to divorce.

Ms Karnikowski concedes that rates from Australians divorcing before 30 are lower than ever. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the rate of divorce for persons aged 16 to 30 has decreased from 4.9 per 1000 within the age group in 1990 to 2.2 in 2010. However this is largely due to the fact that people in the 16 to 30 age bracket are increasingly cohabitating before marriage and that people are marrying later, with many people marrying in their thirties rather than their twenties.

However, the article quotes Sociologist, Belinda Hewitt of the University of Queensland and states that if your marry under the age of 25, you have 4 times the risk of divorce as those who marry over 25. Hewitt’s research shows that each additional years delay in marriage reduces the odds of marital break down by almost 6% per year for men and 9% per year from women.

Karnikowski sights the “microcosm of Hollywood” as it “illuminates the trend of young to marry quick to split.” Examples cited are Scarlett Johansson marrying Ryan Reynolds at aged 26 and divorcing 2 years later, Drew Barrymore who married Jeremy Thomas at age 19 and divorced 2 months later, and Angelina Jolie divorcing her first husband, actor Jonny Lee Miller after three years of marriage.

The article states that frequent comments of those who are young to divorce are “we weren’t old enough”, “we weren’t mature enough”, “I didn’t really know myself”.

Karnikowski cites scientific research which shows that the human brains has not completely formed until a person reaches their mid 20’s. Hewitt herself says: “I have often thought that if your brain isn’t fully developed until 25, don’t get married under 25!!”.

Karnikowski then discusses a book by Joelee Kaputa who was 28 when she divorced after a year of marriage. Her book entitled: “Trash the dress: stories of celebrating divorce in your 20’s” follows Kaputa’s search through the self help section during her divorce. In her research for the book, Kaputa interviewed more than 50 female divorcees aged between 18 and 30 from around the world who have been married for less than three years. She states that many of them say they married because they were at an age where the next natural step was to get married or that they married for religious reasons or had pressure from their parents to marry.

The reasons that Kaputa’s subjects gave for divorce including things such as difference in values for example the other party being less carer driven. Low self esteem and emotional abuse were also frequent triggers.

Danielle Lundberg, a Melbourne based psychologist, who specialises in young divorces states that young people are often divorced because they have not had sufficient experience in long term relationships. Lundburg says: “They’re caught in the romance and excitement of it all, and that wears off after a period of time.” She adds “they’re then faced with the humdrum practicalities of married life – who’s cooking dinner? Who makes the bed? Who does the groceries? – and their intensely romanticised ideas about marriage start to fall apart”.

Another reason for young divorces may be that fewer young people in marriages are willing to endure inevitable rough patches.

However, the article states that divorce for those in their twenties may be easier in the sense that young couples usually have fewer responsibilities than older couples might have such as children, mortgage, and common friends.

Whilst many young couples are living together rather than marrying, couples should also be aware that under the Family Law Act the wording of sections of that Act in relation to how the Court can potentially alter the property interests of separated parties is identical as between married and de facto couples.

Whilst younger people may be avoiding marriage due to the legalities and formalities which marriage brings, they should be aware that once they have been living with their partner for two years or more, or have a child with their partner, or if they have blended their finances, they will be subject to an Act which give the Court the power to alter theirs and their partner’s property interests following separation.

If you have concerns about how property would be divided if you and your de facto partner or your spouse were to separate, you may consider seeking a Binding Financial Agreement (commonly referred to as a “pre-nup”). This document can be obtained either before living together or before marriage or during living together or during marriage.

If you have separated from your spouse or de facto partner and would like our advice in relation to next steps in resolving the matter, please do not hesitate to contact us at Armstrong Legal on 9261 4555.

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