05/11/2011 05:15 pm ET Updated Jul 11, 2011

G'day Mate: Divorce Observations from Down Under

I have the privilege to be in Australia this week and, of course, I took an interest in learning more about what divorce looks like on this side of the world! Are there any differences in divorce statistics in the US versus those in the land down under?

The 12-Month Rule
: One thing I found instantly interesting (and personally devastating!) was that in order to file for divorce in Australia, you have to prove that you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for at least 12 months, and prove that there is no reasonable likelihood of resuming married life. I know this '12 month rule' can be found in many states in the US too (and thankfully that wasn't the case in my state of Georgia). Sorry. I can't imagine having to be separated for 12 months before being able to move forward with divorce. In many cases, I think this could be considered 'cruel and unusual punishment.' If the marriage is over, then the marriage is over. If both spouses aren't working towards fixing the marriage, and aren't both fully engaged in making things work, then it seems cruel to 'force' one party to just wait it out for an arbitrary twelve months. I would love to see some statistics on how many potential divorces are avoided because the twelve-month separation period brings both parties back together again into a strong, fulfilled marriage. Anyone have those numbers for either the US or Australia?

2009+ Divorce Increase: The other statistic I found interesting in Australia was that while the divorce rate had been declining in recent years (it's actually been declining since 2001), these numbers actually began to increase in 2009. What was so different about 2009 that it would reverse almost a decade of decreasing divorce rates and increasing marriage rates? If you think about it, the answer is probably not a surprise. One theory is that the global financial crisis, which began in 2008, put more families than ever before under significant pressure! We all know that financial strain is a leading cause of relationship breakups. I would say the same is true in the US. These stressful financial times have served to increase the divorce rate. In Australia, the divorce rate spiked up by almost 5% in 2009! That's huge. Experts in Australia were quoted as saying that money is always the top answer whenever couples were asked to identify what caused tension in their relationships. The next answers were always 'work' and 'kids' ... but money issues always came first. Interestingly, many studies in the US point to this same order of relationship stressors: money, followed by work and kids! (Anecdotally, I have to say that I have also seen the opposite effect and have seen many relationships remain intact (not intentionally) because people can't afford to get divorced. While their relationships are still in ruins, they remain married because it's too expensive to get divorced and learn to survive with two households living off what one household lived on in the past.)

We May Drive on Opposite Sides of the Road, but the High Road Still Rules: I met a woman on tour yesterday who had recently gotten divorced in Australia. As I've said before, divorce is hurtful and painful no matter the circumstances and no matter who initiated it. She told me about how bitter and angry she was. She was not coping well with her ex- and, in this case, his ongoing relationship with 'the other woman.' Then, she told me, she had a moment of clarity where she chose to see the entire situation through the eyes of her young son, and she realized that she had a choice to make. She could 'take the high road' and focus positively on the future or continue to be a 'negative Nelly' and live out this bitterness for all to see. She chose the high road and said she immediately felt a weight lifted. She said her son noticed it as well and that dealing with her divorce and its after-effects have been much easier to navigate with her improved perspective. I love that taking the high road is a successful international practice. It doesn't matter which side of the road we start on ... it's not left side or right side that matters ... it's all about succumbing to the low road versus intentionally taking the high road!