You’ve probably heard it said that “Opposites attract.” But sometimes, sustaining relationships between people of differing cultures can be challenging.
Cultural differences between you and your spouse can be interesting and exciting when things are good but can place a strain on your marriage when difficulties arise. These differences can also complicate the divorce process. If you’re navigating a cross-cultural divorce, consider using the collaborative divorce process, which has cultural awareness and sensitivity built into the process.
Common Challenges in Cross-Cultural Relationships
Differences in culture — which can include ethnicity, religion, or financial status — can affect a couple’s ability to sustain their relationship long-term and navigate a smooth divorce process. Cross-cultural and multinational couples sometimes experience the following challenges within their relationships and divorce processes:
Family Pressures to Stay Married
Many cultures place immense value on the longevity of marriage, even when a couple is unhappy or one partner is abusive. If these pressures are present in your marriage, you may hesitate to request a divorce from your spouse. You may wonder whether your family will accept you after the divorce, even though you know the decision is right for both of you.
Different Views on Raising Children
There are many different and often conflicting views on raising children across cultures. When you and your spouse separate, you may disagree on how you want to raise your child or children depending on your contrasting cultural backgrounds. This can create a lot of mistrust and confusion about how co-parenting will work.
Moving Back to One’s Home Country
If you or your spouse came from another country, questions about moving back home or even about visiting family for extended periods of time can come into play. For instance, if your soon-to-be-ex-spouse wants to take your child back to his or her home country to live permanently or even spend an entire summer, how will you make co-parenting work when you are living so far apart? What rights will you have to see your children? How will all the travel expenses be paid for?
Differences in Wealth
Differences in wealth can create challenges in the marriage, even when both spouses are from the same country and religious background. For example, perhaps your spouse has lived off an inheritance or trust fund during the marriage. You may have gotten used to a wealthier lifestyle, even though you have no claim to your spouse’s inheritance after the marriage.
How Can Collaborative Divorce Benefit Cross-Cultural Couples?
Divorce is difficult, and having cultural differences in your marriage may add numerous unique challenges to the process. Unlike traditional, adversarial divorce, collaborative divorce can help you and your spouse compromise to reach a mutually beneficial agreement that mitigates the impact of the divorce for all parties involved, including children and extended family. Utilizing a collaborative and culturally sensitive approach to your divorce poses two main benefits:
You Can Discuss What Is Important to You — And Why It’s Important
Collaborative divorce gives you and your spouse an opportunity to discuss what is important to you and why. It fosters a safe and open atmosphere for you and your spouse to discuss all the facets of your marriage, it allows you to better understand what each of your values are and why they influence your wishes, and it can help you and your spouse compromise to make informed decisions about legal issues that arise during divorce proceedings.
You’ll have a chance to ask and answer questions like:
- Why is it important to stay married, even though differences in your cultural backgrounds have made it difficult to sustain your marriage?
- Why do you want to raise your children a certain way?
- Why is it important for you to go back to your home country or spend long periods there?
When divorcing through traditional litigation, your views regarding these and similar topics may never be discussed, and it is likely that the decision made by a judge will be unfavorable for one or both parties, as well as any other parties involved such as children or extended families.
You Can Include the Expertise and Guidance of Various Professionals
During the collaborative divorce, you’ll have a say in who you’d like to participate in the process. Collaboratively trained mental health professionals who understand family dynamics and have child development expertise can be particularly helpful in cross-cultural families. These professionals can help you and your soon-to-be-ex- find ways to overcome differences in parenting styles, communication, family values, and any other cultural conflicts that may complicate your divorce.
Vacca Family Law Group: A Collaborative Approach to Divorce in NY
If you’re preparing for a cross-cultural divorce, you need an experienced attorney on your side. At Vacca Family Law Group, we help divorcing couples achieve amicable agreements, with a strong emphasis on collaborative divorce and cultural sensitivity.
Schedule your free introductory call with a collaborative divorce attorney today. Call 212-768-1115 to learn more.