This week’s poll did not prove as provocative or popular as some previous surveys, drawing only 337 votes. The subject of divorce and efforts to reform the laws surrounding it may be too sensitive.
The background of the question was last week’s revelation that the Law Reform Commission is recommending changes to Cayman’s traditional divorce laws, seeking to update and streamline them. Most importantly, the proposals seek to reduce the emotional stress on couples and children.
The reforms essentially seek to implement “no fault” divorce. Current laws compel one of the parties to make an admission of guilt in some regard, leading to prolonged, often bitter, sometimes exhausting battles. A separation of two years is also required before the courts will grant a divorce decree.
The Compass poll offered four choices of opinion about the proposed changes. While that array was not comprehensive, the final option, “other”, provided latitude for any nuances. The overwhelming majority of respondents opted for the first choice: “I’m in support. No-fault divorce is practical.”
Of the 337 votes, 209, or 62 per cent – more than three-fifths – favoured the commission’s recommendation, illustrating their concerns in five comments.
“A long, bitter divorce will have an adverse long-term effect on the kids – if the parents can part amicably, the kids don’t become pawns in inter-parental disputes,” wrote one voter, reasonably concerned for the emotional fragility of children struggling to grasp a difficult situation.
An intriguing response came from another voter, who suggested a marriage might profit from practical legal preparation.
“No fault, yes, an uncomplicated prenuptial essential, though”, the respondent wrote. Prenuptial agreements are not widespread in Cayman, but they may have a place if marriage partners are emotionally ill-prepared for the union.
“Until there are restrictions on getting married, there should be no restrictions on divorce,” said one respondent.
A further variation on that theme came in a fourth opinion, predicated on the Matrimonial Clauses Law. “Sometimes, two people can’t be together any more. It should not take a year apart to prove that,” was the comment, although the law appears to require a two-year separation.
“These bible-thumping pastors need to stop telling the rest of us how to live,” said another. “Their congregation members get divorced, too. Who are they to judge the rest of us? There is separation of church and state for a reason.”
Interestingly, the second-ranking choice in the poll – “I am NOT in support. Divorce damages families; no-fault encourages it” – addressed the previous comment and its implications for the faithful. While the option attracted 49 votes, 14.5 per cent of the total, only one supporter left a comment – and in capital letters: “GOD IS WATCHING.”
One may choose to believe or not, but what is undeniable is that both marriage and its dissolution reflect cultural values in many ways, and cultural values generally evolve slowly, sometimes spurred by legislation, but not always.
The third option in the poll was “The laws reflect cultural values, but need some change”, and drew 38 votes, 11.3 per cent of the total.
The fourth choice – “Abusive relationships should end quickly, but too-swift change destabilises” – reflects the perennial issue in Cayman of domestic abuse. No-fault divorce offers a swift answer for both spouses and children, but may raise questions for the court, especially those established to adjudicate domestic violence through counselling and treatment.
The option attracted 34 votes, or 10.1 per cent of the total, but drew no comments.
Finally, the fifth possibility, “other”, threw open the survey to a full range of opinion, and while marking only seven votes and 2.1 per cent of the total, elicited some curious ideas.
Next week’s poll question
- Should sex education be taught in Cayman’s schools?
- Yes. Welcome to the 21st century.
- No. Some things should be left to family.
- Perhaps, but only for older high school students.
- Not sure, the subject needs more study.
To participate, visit www.cayCompass.com