Divorce Concerns in Arranged Marriages

Common Concerns With Divorce in an Arranged Marriage

Although about 50% of traditional marriages in the United States end in divorce, the rate for arranged marriage is lower. For example, Orthodox Jews in America have a divorce rate of about 7%. However, many groups that practice arranged marriage — this also includes Hindu, Amish and Romani cultures — face unique complexities when divorces arise.

Cultural or Religious Concerns

Most arranged marriages are tied to cultural practices or religious beliefs. In most of those customs, a divorce may lead to:

  • Shunning of the divorced people by their families
  • Being viewed as a disgrace to the culture or community
  • Being ostracized by the cultural or religious community
  • Facing a variety of penalties set forth by religious laws

If you are in an abusive or a miserable arranged marriage, the stigma associated with divorce can be a deterrent to seeking change. In some cultures, the fear of being ostracized is also enough to deter a separation.

Safety advocates encourage people who are trapped in abusive marriages to explore their options with a divorce attorney. If that applies to you, there are safe houses and resources for spouses and children who are in physical danger. In the safe homes, your identity can be protected, which means that family members or abusive spouses cannot easily find you.

Child Custody

Another common concern is who will take care of the children. In most cultures that practice arranged marriages, the women are the primary caregivers for children. The role of women is usually to stay at home, and some cultures strongly discourage women from working away from home. However, fathers often want a fair custody agreement and may even try to get sole custody. Although there is no clear answer on how your case will end for custody, judges must be fair in their consideration of facts and circumstances from both sides.

Dowry or Bride Token Issues

In some cultures, dowries and bride prices or tokens are still used. They may be arranged as part of a marriage contract. Depending on the culture and terms, they may be used to:

  • Provide financial security for the bride to establish a marriage household
  • Provide compensation to the bride if the marriage does not work
  • Provide compensation to the family of the bride for the inconvenience of losing her help in the home

To provide one example, some Islamic arranged marriages require a dowry or token to be paid to the bride. Courts still disagree across the country on the enforceability of dowries, and cases are usually determined on an individual basis. For example, in a case in Ohio, a court ruled that a Muslim man did not have to pay his bride the promised money. The reason for this was because he did not have a chance to consult with an attorney beforehand. However, courts in New Jersey and New York have ruled in favor to uphold some dowries in the past.

The outcome will likely depend on the circumstances surrounding the agreement and the wording of any signed contracts. If the marriage took place in another country under religious laws only, that may also be a consideration that affects the outcome of the case. This applies to couples of all cultural or religious arranged marriages.

Forced or Arranged Marriage

While forced marriages are rare in the United States, they may still take place in some cultural and religious groups. As a rule, an arranged marriage is not automatically considered a forced marriage. In the United States, an arranged marriage is recognized as a marriage that is arranged by the families of the couple with the consent of both parties. Consent is where there can be issues. For example, if a bride is forced to agree to the marriage and is not willing to be married, that may be considered a forced marriage. According to the USCIS, these are some ways to identify a forced marriage:

  • You did not have a choice of when to marry or whom to marry
  • You fear being cut off from your culture, family or religion by leaving the marriage
  • You are being monitored closely to prevent you from talking to an attorney or someone who can help you
  • If you attempt to leave the marriage, you believe that you or your family may be harmed
  • You have had personal belongings or money withheld from you to prevent you from leaving the marriage
  • If you attempted to leave or indicated an intention to do so, you were threatened with isolation, abandonment or physical harm

If you did not give your consent to go through with the marriage, the presence of any of these factors may indicate that you are in a forced marriage in the eyes of the law. However, that does not guarantee that a judge will think that. An attorney can review the specific details of your situation to help you determine if you might be in what the courts consider a forced marriage.

The United States government has a negative view of forced marriages and considers them to be human rights abuses. If the person in the forced marriage is under the age of 18, it is also considered child abuse. In any state, forced marriage is a serious crime, and those who force a person into a marriage can face harsh legal penalties and criminal charges.

Finding Help in Seeking a Divorce From an Arranged Marriage in New Jersey

We appreciate that New Jersey is full of many cultures and religions, and we welcome clients from all walks of life. The cultural and religious practices of people often become a strong part of their identity. When people live in isolated communities, the thought of living in a different one or being an outcast can be emotionally challenging. We understand that your religious beliefs and cultural practices are important to you and that divorce may mean that you will be treated differently by your community.

In some cases, people who leave an arranged marriage also choose to leave their religious or cultural communities behind, and we understand that such a difficult decision requires an extra degree of support. We can help connect you with government resources for your long-term living needs. When you work with us, we assure you of the following:

  • We consider every detail of your history and situation to build the strongest case in your favor
  • Our goal is to help you gain a favorable outcome in all aspects
  • We are patient, compassionate and sensitive to your needs

If you are in immediate danger or are injured, we encourage you to call 911. Police and medical personnel can help treat any injuries and find a safe place for you to stay. If you are ready to pursue an arranged marriage divorce, please contact us for a completely confidential consultation with a New Jersey divorce attorney. We can also answer your questions if you are still thinking about divorce. You can reach us at 201-343-0078. If you prefer to stop by our office, we are in suite 104 at 25 Main Street Court Plaza North in Hackensack, New Jersey.

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