In India, Muslim women must obtain the permission of their husband, a cleric or other Islamic authorities to seek a divorce. Shockingly, Muslim men have been able to end their marriages by simply saying the word “talaq” — Arabic for “divorce” — three times. The method of divorce was available only to men, who in many cases had their wives removed from their homes without alimony or other financial support. Thankfully, this practice came to an end last month.
By contrast, in the United States, women and men are on equal legal footing when seeking a divorce. Women do not need to seek permission from anyone. They certainly do not need their spouse’s consent. And yet, when reading this news from India, I couldn’t help but recall the stories of women here in the U.S. who remained married, mistakenly believing their husband would need to agree to a divorce. That’s not the law, so why do they believe this?
Two possibilities come to mind:
Misinformation: Somewhere along the way, the idea of needing permission or consent to divorce was planted, and took root. Maybe she read it somewhere, saw it on television, in a movie or heard it in a conversation. She could be relying on outdated information (historically, consent was required in many states, but no longer.) Sometimes, it’s a mystery.
Legal Threats: Their spouse threatened he would never agree to a divorce. Legal threats like these are extremely common before, during and even after divorce.
In your legal divorce, question everything and assume nothing. For example, if you believe you need permission to divorce, set about asking where this belief came from and confirm it’s consistent with the law. Cultivating this habit will go a long way towards insulating you from the damage caused by misinformation and legal threats.