Church and State

Appropriate for a Sunday, here are three divorce-related stories from around the world, all with a religious theme:

First up, we have a story from America. In Mineola, New York, a pastor's wife argued that her husband's church should be considered a marital asset in divorce proceedings, as he had used it as his "personal piggy bank". The court was sufficiently convinced to order him to open the church's books to a court-appointed forensic accountant. This is thought to be the first time anyone in New York state has tried to treat a religious institution as a marital asset - and I say why not?

Meanwhile, from Egypt we have this story about women divorcing their husbands for strange reasons, following the introduction of khol'a divorces in 2000 (before that apparently a woman had to present strong evidence against her husband, such as physical abuse or adultery, in order to divorce). The reasons for the divorces are pretty colourful, such as that one husband had bad breath and smelly feet, but my favourite is the one in which the wife sought a divorce because her husband worked as a sorcerer. All of this may sound very good news for Egyptian wives in unhappy marriages, but the downside is that they can only obtain a khol'a divorce if they renounce their financial rights. I'm sure many husbands in this country would be quite happy for their wives to divorce them for having smelly feet, if it meant no financial claim against them.

Lastly, the Guardian yesterday reported that there has been a huge increase in the Spanish divorce rate since the government introduced legislation in 2005 that made the process easier and faster. Unsurprisingly, this has alarmed religious organisations and conservative family groups, but it seems that much of the increase is due to couples who previously separated now getting divorced. Interestingly, the report says that a leading Spanish family lawyer sees the new law "as reflecting social changes in Spain, which has undergone a transition from a deeply Catholic, conservative country under the dictatorship of General Franco to having some of the most liberal social laws". Whatever, if our falling divorce rate means less work over here, I'm sure plenty of English divorce lawyers will happily swap for the sunnier climes of Spain.

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