For a primer about legal issues see related blog “Overview of Legal Issues”. Thankfully, during our 16 month separation my wife never filed any legal papers, although she did retain an attorney. I decided very early on that I would not file any petition for divorce, separation, or dissolution. Jesus said, “Let no man put asunder what God had joined together.” The Apostle Paul also highlighted this concept when he talked about not taking believers to court.
I believed that I had two major Scriptural admonitions not to institute legal procedures either against Sharon or on my behalf as a favor to her. I had no suspicion of adultery on her part, and I totally accepted that she was Christian. The other stance that I took was that I would not sign a voluntary dissolution because I believed that would be me participating in putting asunder what God had joined together. The only option Sharon was going to have for legally ending our marriage would have been to file divorce papers with the knowledge that most likely I would contest them.
I didn’t know the legal system well enough to know all of my eventual options, but my understanding was that eventually, whether I wanted it or not, the judge could end my marriage. But I had decided if it came to that, he could do it, not me, and if that cost a whole lot more money for both Sharon and I, hopefully that would be a deterrent to her pursuing divorce. My understanding of Ohio state law was that there was an option to request a judge to order more counseling. I would have probably pursued that option. He might have granted it, he might have turned it down, the counseling might have worked, it might not have, but it would have been something to try.
I think now in some states courts are ordering some sort of training for spouses with children, even if a divorce is granted, because they realize that for the children’s benefit, parents have to at least get civilized. I have heard of judges in California ordering couples to go to Retrouvaille. I don’t know if that was an option in Ohio.
When I was convinced that Sharon was most likely going to file for divorce, I begged her to meet with a Christian mediator. She reluctantly agreed. We immediately got between the proverbial rock and a hard place. She was absolutely insisting that she only wanted to mediate a divorce/dissolution, I was absolutely not willing to do that based on what I just said above. My desire was to mediate a reconciliation. She was absolutely unwilling to do that. What we finally agreed to was that we would make good faith efforts to mediate a legal separation. I obviously was reluctant to do this, but I believed that was the only thing we had to mediate since she would not mediate a reconciliation and I would not mediate a dissolution. We did have a a couple of meetings. The first was to understand the process and to agree on the ground rules. Basically we agreed that any issues we couldn’t resolve would be turned over to a panel of spiritual leaders and friends. Amazingly, we got that much agreed to.
We started in on the issues I think involving the kids. We hit impasses right away, then I had an out of town meeting, and for whatever reason, we never got back to mediating our issues. Everything just sort of sat until we went to the PAIRS training where we started reconciling (See that story elsewhere). As tough as it was in mediation, I was glad for it at the time because I was having some contact with Sharon, and in trying to discuss and make decisions about issues we were getting to know one another better. I was hoping to show her how much I cared and that my behavior was changing for the better, but I am not sure I accomplished either goal.