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Divorce and maintenance cases on the rise: the consequences

by Edward Ncube To any average social by-stander it represents a sad impression to read that the marriage institution is being assailed. What makes this reading a tragedy is that functionally, marriage is expected to be a life-long commitment that restrains self-centeredness, self-indulgence and self-gratification.

Marriage is the one relationship that effectively prepares and conditions us for community and a conduit for the development of society by way of socialising children into the community. Latest statistics indicate that 519 summons were issued by the Bulawayo High Court last year, an increase of 113 cases from 2011.

With such figures at hand, it will be self defeating to passively swallow and pretend nothing is wrong. There is however a need for the society to interrogate this development and possibly suggest a remedy. Judge President George Chiweshe recently expressed concern at the rate at which couples were divorcing.

“The rate at which couples are divorcing has reached alarming levels,” said Justice Chiweshe at the official opening of the 2013 Legal Year of the Bulawayo High Court. He said social scientists and other experts have attributed this development to the general erosion of cultural values due to urban migration, domestic violence, adultery and other social ills.

“The prevalence of these factors has been exacerbated by the prevailing harsh economic conditions,” said Justice Chiweshe.

Marriage is far more profound than our contemporary culture would lead us to believe. By restraining self-centeredness and promoting love of another, marriage becomes the foundation for social order.

When this commitment labeled “marriage” is reduced to nothing more than a mere contract between two consenting persons, or worse just another option, it ceases to restrain our self-centered passions.

A social commentator and businessman, Mr Blazio Madyiwa Chaka said the root cause behind the accelerated divorce rate was that people no longer had regard for cultural values.

“People these days are after foreign cultures and these bring no good because they do not fit in our social system,” said Mr Madyiwa. He said couples of today have given up cultural principles that strengthen marriages such as respect and tolerance for each other.

“Our parents back in the day respected each other, and worse of back then the wife knew her parameters as well as the husband in that union. But couples of today compete for control of the home, that is not possible,” said Mr Madyiwa.

According to a paper titled “The Benefits of Marriage to the Nation,” presented at the Marriage Summit in 2007 by Chris Meney, the manner in which marriage is codified in law and the way in which societies develop social norms in support of marriage are both vitally important.

“This is because marriage is a significant social good which contributes to the society in a profound way.’” writes Meney.

However, there is a paradox here, because there is much evidence that the society cannot possibly monitor all the different ways in which individuals might choose to use or misuse ‘marriage.

The effects that follow a breakdown of a marriage have negative impact on children, experts say in some children seeing their parents divorce often feel scared about what will happen to them.

According to marriage experts children also worry about their family and what would happen to them in the future. If one parent leaves the house then they worry about that parent and whether they would get to see that parent again.

Apart from increasing divorce cases, the city also recorded an increase in the number of women taking their husbands to court over the upkeep of children with 1 853 cases recorded between January and December.

The increase of maintenance cases serves as evidence that men and women are failing to coexist in a respectable and functional union.

This is indeed a cause for concern, especially if the bulk of the maintenance cases emanate from illicit affairs that have become to be termed “small house” unions.

If the society accepts small houses that means the marriage institution itself is at risk, and ultimately can lose its relevance and significance.

According to latest court records, 1 399 cases had been opened in November and the number grew to 1 853 by 31 December, marking anaverage of between 225 and 228 cases per month towards the end of the year.

The upsurge was attributed to an array of factors among them lack of responsibility by men who abandon their families, the general economic meltdown and closure of industries in Bulawayo, resulting in thousands of workers left jobless and unable to fend for their families.

So in essence, the increase of maintenance cases translates to the reality that some guardians we have in this society are neglecting or refusing to take up the responsibility to feed, clothe, educate, provide shelter and medical care to their children.

This situation normally leaves one of the parents and sometimes relatives, with the burden of shouldering the duties of the irresponsible parent.

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  1. Dewitt Portugal

    Divorce causes major issues with health insurance benefits. Many families have employer provided and/or paid for health insurance benefits that cover the entire family. It is not uncommon to see situations where the other spouse is a stay at home parent, with absolutely no access to health insurance benefits, or employed at a job with either no health insurance benefits available or those benefits available at a substantial cost. After a divorce, the spouse with the family health insurance coverage can no longer cover the other parent. They are no longer “family” members who can take advantage of one health insurance policy. How to then ensure that everyone stays insured does become an issue for negotiation and/or divorce litigation.”-

    Have a good one

  2. The rise in divorce cases are also attributed to a rise in the ratio of women to men. Men always feel that because there are more women than men then it is much easier to replace their spouses. the other thing is women empowerment. most men feel intimidated once their wives get empowered and they begin to complain of lack of love and attention leading to small houses and ultimately the breakdown of marriages. what couples need to do is to discuss the changes in social, political and economic environment so that no one feels left out. this way they embrace the changes together and device ways to make their marriage work and keep up with the changes in society.

  3. Marriage is spiritual, and many people have failed in it because they approach it from a physical angle, which doesn’t work. God Himself created and ordained marriage, which made it the arena where the devil sought to attack more than anything else. The increasing rates of divorce simply reflect stronger attacks of the devil on one hand and couples’ slackness in worshiping the Lord on the other. People are blessed in special ways once they marry, beginning with the nice gifts that they receive on their wedding days. More follows if they keep together but every marriage is shaken from the moment it is conceived. Marriages last when they are founded on fervent prayers and when those in marriages act on the basis of revelations of spiritual things. One of the most important revelations is that no spouse can be perfect, but it only takes a positive attitude towards the other person to ride above the emotional strain of their wrongdoings. In a marriage, what matters is the effort that each spouse puts in and not what they get from the other. So we find that many marriages collapse because each spouse comes into it to be loved, served, provided for and so forth when in fact they must concentrate on doing the same for their partner. People propose divorce because they feel unloved, unserved, etc. Instead, people should remain in marriages to love, serve and provide for their partners no matter what they receive from them in return. And that is a commitment one must make before they decide to get married. I am certain there is no way that one partner loves and loves; serves and serves, provides and provides – then get nothing in return. No! But people reap what they sow. If they sow love, they receive love, etc. This is deeply spiritual and there is more!

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