Author and attorney combines legal guidance and biblical ethics to offer assistance and support to couples contemplating divorce
For Immediate Release (Rockville, MD) — According to a recent article in USA Today, a yet-to-be-counted statistic from the pandemic is the detrimental effect on marriages. The article cited a survey conducted in late April where nearly one-third of respondents said the quarantine had harmed their relationships. As a family law attorney and former Family Magistrate with over four decades of legal experience, John Weaver is an expert on the ramifications of family and marriage disputes. When he earned his Master’s degree in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary nearly 30 years after his law degree, an essay he wrote for one of his classes became the catalyst for his new book, “The Seven Principles of a Just Divorce: Biblical Wisdom and Legal Insight.”
Weaver bases the seven principles outlined in the book on Saint Augustine’s “Just War Theory,” a list of concepts a military commander considers when deciding if a war is necessary. However, Weaver says his comparison should not be seen as a forced metaphor.
“I don’t view divorce as a war,” says Weaver. “The theory simply serves as a framework for applying both classical and biblical wisdom to an unfortunately all-too-common situation in order to achieve a righteous result in this fallen world. An interesting aspect of Just War considerations is that they address not only the decision of whether to go to war but also what constitutes the ethical execution of war. Significant in a Just Divorce is not only the biblical justification for pursuing that divorce, but also the morality of the manner in which it is pursued.”
Though there have been sources that claim the divorce rate for both Christians and non-Christians is about the same, The Institute of Family Studies says their research concluded that Christians who go to church on a regular basis are more likely to marry and less likely to divorce than the general population. And while an active faith seems to lead to more stable marriages, Weaver says there are biblical grounds for divorce that church leaders need to consider when counseling their members.
“Although hardness of heart prompted Moses to recognize and regulate divorce, the presumption in his day was that marriage vows should be kept,” says Weaver. “According to the Scriptures, divorce is expressly permitted on two grounds: a spouse’s adultery, a term which includes other serious sexual misconduct; and an unbelieving spouse’s desertion. Not only does physical abandonment destroy the marriage bond, but abuse and certain other egregious behaviors demonstrate the deserter’s deliberate renunciation of the marriage covenant. A believing spouse who is unrepentant may be functionally treated as if he or she is a deserting unbelieving spouse; the wronged spouse may be permitted to divorce on the basis of desertion. The bases for divorce are not trivial slights. Rather, they are intentional violations of marital vows.”
The first part of “The Seven Principles of a Just Divorce” focuses on biblical principles related to the decision to divorce. According to Weaver, a distinctive from other faith-based books is that the remaining two-thirds of the book emphasizes the practical legal aspects of the divorce process, integrating biblical principles into the discussion.
“I felt it was essential to offer readers a closer look at the financial and legal realities of divorce,” says Weaver. “So many people are unaware of the various issues that take place when a marriage is dissolved. I felt it would be beneficial to give readers an understanding of negotiations and various ways to resolve disputes – both inside and outside court, as well as important knowledge of things like alimony, equitable property division, child custody and support. Couples contemplating divorce should go into the process with as much information as possible. This legal information along with biblical wisdom will not always provide specific answers, but they will point the reader in the right direction.”
Weaver hopes his book will also help churches find more proactive ways to assist members who are dealing with divorce.
“I don’t think churches fully understand the tremendous spiritual, emotional, legal, and financial stress – as well as sense of loss – that those going through divorce are experiencing over an extended period of time,” says Weaver. “Churches also should seek to engage with the couple, most likely with each individually, and to try to understand and address the family’s needs – spiritual and emotional, as well as practical and financial – as much as possible. A deacon or similar person could inquire of their needs. The loss of established relationships within a church is often part of the collateral damage, and maintaining relationships with someone going through divorce is an important source of support for both the parents and children.”
About the author:
John Weaver is a family law attorney in Maryland, where he has practiced for forty years including six years when he presided over family law hearings as a Family Magistrate in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. He received his J.D. from The George Washington University Law School in 1979 and his M.A. in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary – Washington, D.C. in 2007. His thesis was “A Just Divorce: Divorce That is Right and Just and Fair.” His law practice includes family law negotiation, mediation, arbitration, litigation, appellate advocacy, and expert witness services. He has regularly developed and presented Continuing Legal Education seminars, and his local bar association awarded him Section Chair of the Year (Family Law Section), Pro Bono Program Individual and Firm Awards and Service Awards, as well as President’s Citation for Outstanding Service to the Bar Association three times. He also served several years in church leadership. For more information visit www.AJustDivorce.com.