Same Sex Divorce 101

Firstly, congratulations! Your marriage failed! The thing our queer community in Australia fought so hard for is something you’ve failed to execute! Hooray! Bet you feel shit, yeah? Yeah. Whether you’re the leaver or the leavee, this process sucks. It’s worse than just a relationship break up because it’s MARRIAGE. And it FAILED.

Secondly, if you’re like me and you married an abusive arsehole of the same gender, you’re also going through the trauma of recovery! All the good times to be had!

Thirdly, you’re gonna have to wait one year and one day before you can apply for a divorce. This is so you can sort out whether there’s any chance of reconciliation, but again, if you’re like me, it’s just an opportunity to be manipulated, used and lied to by your narcissistic spouse for a whole ‘nother year because you’re an idiot who believed that they were just going through a crisis and the love you shared was real and worth fighting for.

You’re not an idiot. It happens to the best of us, and through this process you can finally learn that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it take responsibility for its terrible behaviour and get life-changing help before it abuses another horse.

Here’s what you need to do if you’re going through a same sex divorce in Australia.

  1. Take a breath. It’s shit, but it’s going to be okay. By the end of the process, you will feel better, even if you didn’t want the divorce in the first place.
  2. Get some therapy to help with the yuck feelings that are going to come up at various stages of the process. If you don’t deal with them feels, shit’s gonna get real.
  3. Your ex is gonna be a dick. You’re gonna be a dick. There’s going to be a lot of dicks happening, even in a lesbian divorce. Prepare yourself.
  4. Jump on to the Federal Circuit Court website here to find out how to apply for a divorce. Same sex couples can’t do it online yet, even though it’s been legal for over a year now, so I flung an email at the National Enquiry Centre and a lovely lady sent me back the printable pdf of the application.
  5. Okay, here’s the tricky bit, and it’s to do with fees and court appearances and all that. If both parties carry a Health Care Card or a Pensioner Card or any of that biz, you can submit a joint application and get a discount on the fee (about $300 down from the full fee of $1000). Both applicants have to sign the Affidavit and you don’t need to serve documents on the other party. Also, court attendance is not required if you file a joint application, but you can request an appearance if you want. I didn’t want, so I didn’t request. If only one of you has a concession card and you want the discount, then the card carrier has to submit a sole application. This means the applicant has to serve documents on the respondent, and if you have kids under 18, you have to go to court. You don’t have to go to court if there are no children.
  6. If you do not have combined assets or property, you don’t need a lawyer. Getting a divorce is expensive enough as it is, you don’t need the added cost of lawyer’s fees if it’s not necessary.
  7. You will need to get your application witnessed. I used the sergeant at my local police station. He was cool.
  8. Once the application and all its copies have been submitted, you will get a stamped copy back of your application with the date of the court hearing, even if you’re not attending court. I found this information helpful in preparing for the mental shitstorm that happened around that date.
  9. Once the court hearing is complete, your divorce will be finalised one month and one day from that date.
  10. Have a party. I did. It was very cathartic and you and your friends can yell “fuck you” to your absent ex as you smash a cake with their face on it.

I’m going to be honest, the entire process was brutal. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let my community down. My ideals and principles regarding marriage were shattered. I learned that there is very little support for same sex couples going through divorce, despite the amount of campaigning we did for marriage equality. Even though it is now legal, I felt that what I was going through wasn’t taken very seriously. Maybe because we’re still not used to the legality of our relationships, maybe because people didn’t realise I was actually legally married, maybe because not a lot of my friends in the community were married so they didn’t understand the gravity of it. I don’t know.

The nature of my relationship with my ex was confronting to a lot of people in the queer community, I realise now. People are uncomfortable with intimate partner violence anyway, and hearing about it makes the average person feel impotent, unable to offer support, unsure of what to say or do. A lot of people in the community still like my ex. She’s seen as a nice person, and because she’s a fairly well known performer, the community wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. I would comment on the manipulative and controlling things that she did during the divorce process and they would back away slowly, unwilling to be involved, which is their prerogative.

However, I had overwhelming support and love and respect too. So much so that there was a crowd of people at my divorce party, there to celebrate and commiserate with me, there to cheer as I continue to move on to a greater life as a gay (bisexual) divorcee, finally free of an awful lie of a relationship.

My ex wife’s ex was there. A woman who I had previously maligned in my attempt to remain loyal and supportive to my wife; a woman who graciously gave me her hand in support when I needed it most as she understood that we have a unique shared experience of surviving an abusive narcissist; a woman who I feel I need to apologise to and thank for the rest of my life was there, raising a glass with me. Solidarity in survival.

So, yes. My greatest advice for going through a divorce? Have your tribe with you. The people who have proven their loyalty and trustworthiness are the ones to have by your side. They will keep you sane and they will remind you that you are not a failure, that you do deserve real love. They will remind you just by being there that although this is an ending, it is also a very bright beginning.

Advertisements

Just Say Yes

 


Yes folks, it’s that time again! It’s that time to pull out my dusty old copy of the Gay Agenda, turn to page 246 of sub-section 39b (the Bi Agenda) and wax rhetoric about marriage equality! Yay, that old chestnut.

Australia, while a wonderful country in many ways, is a little bit backward. Besides the rampant racism and xenophobia, the alarming domestic violence rate, and the existence of XXXX beer, Australia is the land of the seemingly homophobic government. Tim Minchin puts it best in his latest online offering, so I won’t go into why it’s ridiculous that marriage equality isn’t legal. But let me just explore our options here.

In 2004 John Howard’s Liberal government introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill, changing the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to state, “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia” (source). What that means is that the government pretty much sanctioned discrimination based on sexual preference and it was done without consulting the Australian people.

In 2013, however, the High Court found that the Constitutional standpoint of marriage included same sex couples and that basically the federal Parliament has the power to decide to whether same sex couples have the right to marry. Instead, good ol’ Malcolm Turnbull has decided that we should have a plebiscite, even though his government can pass the law if they choose to.

What’s a plebiscite? Well, time to get my nerd on. A plebiscite (ˈplɛbɪsʌɪt,ˈplɛbɪsɪt/) derives from the mid 16th century: from French plébiscite, from Latin plebiscitum, from plebspleb- ‘the common people’ + scitum ‘decree’ (from sciscere ‘vote for’). The sense ‘direct vote of the whole electorate’ dates from the mid 19th century (source, Google dictionary). The word is a noun and its definition is:

  1. the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.
  2. a colossal waste of time and $122 million (second definition is the author’s).

Why is it a waste of time? I’ll let australianmarriageequality.org take this one: “… a free vote costs nothing. A plebiscite will become a platform for hatred and division. We elect politicians to make laws, not handball them back to voters. Issues that raise religious and moral concerns are almost always resolved by free votes in parliament, not plebiscites. A plebiscite is not binding so the issue will have to return to Parliament anyway, at which point there should be a free vote. There is more community support for a free vote than for a plebiscite, especially when voters are aware of the cost of a plebiscite.”

Kinda a no-brainer, huh?

Of course, the majority of the LGBTIQ+ community has rallied around the issue, stating that all love is equal, that it’s a human rights issue, and most importantly, that there are other far more pressing issues to put that time and money towards. We are the last developed English-speaking country in the world to legalise it. It’s embarrassing.

But there’s another facet to this issue, a less buoyant, positive, fluffy facet. Yes, love is love. Yes, we should have the right to marry whichever consenting adult we like and be happy. Yes, marriage is not about gender. But on the other side of that truly beautiful coin is the sobering reminder that things can turn shit. Marriages end, dreams die, break ups are horrible and can be really messy, and the unfortunate thing is that in Australia, there’s not a whole lot of legal support for same sex divorce. Our marriages aren’t even recognised for one thing, so it’s stay married forever, or go back to the country you got married in and become domiciled, and then apply for a costly divorce. Break ups are disruptive enough, but the added insult of not actually being able to legally divorce the person one legally married in another country means that closure is deferred, the connection to one’s ex is still active, and salt is rubbed in the open, suppurating wound.

As it stands, my marriage was not taken seriously by some members of the communities I am a part of (much in the same way that my sexuality isn’t taken seriously, but that’s a different post). Therefore, by extension, my divorce is not taken seriously, and that adds to the devastation. My need to cut ties, move on, perhaps even marry someone else is thwarted by this myopic view of a relationship that was very real (if I want to marry a man in the future, I can’t, as I will be committing bigamy in every country in which same sex marriage is recognised). It’s a cruelty on top of an already hurtful situation.

Divorce rituals are important for healing. Many cultures and religions around the world have rituals that are designed to break the bond and ease the suffering of both parties involved. People throw divorce parties. A temple in Japan allows visitors to literally flush their failing relationship down the toilet. I could do all the rituals in all the world, but still, the country I live in doesn’t give me or my ex the option to make it legal. And that’s shit.

I hope that this plebiscite will not go ahead, because there are many, many people that I love (including myself) who will be affected by the inevitably hateful ‘No’ campaign. The anti-marriage equality lobbies that we have in Australia are champing at the bit to unleash their homophobic vitriol upon my community, and this plebiscite will give them leave to do so with relish.

However, I fear that it will go ahead, so I’m throwing everything I have into campaigning for an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote – even if it isn’t binding, even if the government continue to be a pack of cowards, even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate legalising of same sex marriage, I will still vote yes. I hope all my Australian readers will do so too (mind you, if you’re a regular reader of this blog and you don’t vote yes, my mind boggles as to what you’re doing here).

Once upon a time, I campaigned and protested to have my love recognised. Now I’m campaigning to have the end of it recognised. Equality is equality.