According to 2010 data from the Pew Research Center, 14 percent of all American adults (18 and older) are currently divorced or separated (and not remarried), compared with 11 percent in 1990. In 1980, it was 9 percent; in 1970, 6 percent. With statistics like these showing that divorce is still very much a part of everyday life for many people, a recent trend has also been on the rise -- divorce ceremonies.
Much like a wedding ceremony brings two people together, a divorce ceremony splits two people apart. Think of it like a funeral service for a deceased spouse -- there is a clear-cut end to the relationship so that both parties, no matter how difficult, can move on. The New York Times recently reported that these ceremonies are "often deeply personal and spiritual, intended to help the split couple and their families move past disappointment, anger and hurt."
Some religions have built-in divorce ceremonies within their liturgy. Judaism has a "get," a Jewish divorce officiated by a rabbi; the Unitarian Universalist Church has a ceremony of hope, and the United Methodist Church offers a divorce ceremony. But if you are not of these faiths, not much else exists that distinguishes the end of a marriage.
What are divorce ceremonies like? Divorce ceremonies tend to be personalized to the couple. much like a wedding. They can be elaborate affairs with friends and family in attendance, or they can be intimate and more private. Overall, a divorce ceremony can be conducted in whatever manner you deem fit. Some people use ordained ministers to emphasize the new promises, some people have informal parties without much fanfare, some people make personal "vows" to each other. It really depends on the splitting couple's preferences. Keep in mind that divorce ceremonies are not the legal end to a marriage, but a spiritual way for couples to end their relationship with dignity, respect and healing.
There are a number of different websites that offer guidance when planning a divorce ceremony. I encourage you to do an Internet search and discover what works best for you, your situation and your ideals. The websites also offer vows you can use and may provide you with an order to the ceremony. Again, everything is based on personal preference. Divorce ceremonies can be done however and whenever.
In my opinion, the idea of a divorce ceremony makes perfect sense. After all, what's the harm? If there is a chance that having a divorce ceremony can bring closure to children, then why not try it? In addition, it sets a precedent with the former couple's family and friends, indicating to them that respect and friendship can and will continue post-divorce. It can also act as a reassurance that no one will be put in the middle and a reminder to anyone else involved that they should follow suit.
Everyone I know whose divorce has been friendly has much better relationships with their kids and friends, which is not surprising. I applaud those couples that have decided to end their marriage the same way it started. Divorce ceremonies make sense, and if they set a positive framework for how the relationship will evolve, I encourage more couples to consider having one.