Marriage is not for the faint of heart

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-- Higher child support required to raise children in better condition --


Naturally, when we’re in a romantic relationship, everything seems to be going great and hope to seal the bond with golden rings on our fingers. However, we often forget or choose to ignore all of the challenges that might arise in a marriage, especially when we’re young. We think that all of the problems can be solved along the way but it’s best to think it through before marrying now that the divorce rate continues to rise.
In Mongolia, it is common for people to tie the knot in their early or mid-20s. I’ve seen many people get married in their senior year of university or soon after graduation. Infatuated with one another, they believe they were ready to become husband and wife and even move on to become parents. However, not expecting the world or marriage to be so harsh and still struggling to find their place in society, one by one they start to consider a divorce. Just like with marriage, they seem to forget the consequences of a divorce. 

Divorce rate high among young couples

Legally speaking, marriage is a contract made in conjunction with the law, where a free man and a free woman reciprocally agree to live with each other in the union which ought to exist between husband and wife. A successful marriage is believed to lead to lifelong partnership but many struggle to achieve this high level of commitment to one another.

As mentioned before, Mongolians marry young – on average women at 24 and men at 26, according to a national study. Family therapists and experts say that this is a relatively young age and often people in their early 20s don’t have the mental readiness and economic or social capacity to lead a successful marriage. This is proven by a study which indicates that a high number of people who married in their early 20s choose to divorce five or more years later. According to the General Authority for Intellectual Property and State Registration, 4,201 people divorced in 2018, which is equivalent to 20 percent of total marriages registered last year. The authority found through research that people between the ages of 25 and 45 are most likely to separate.

Even so, this doesn’t mean people shouldn’t marry young. In fact, younger couples are better at developing intimate and open connection with each other as they depend on each other more. People who marry after living alone and independently for a longer time are found to have a harder time opening up to their partner as they struggle to give up certain aspects of their independence. This shows that people can succeed in marriage even at a young age if they are well-prepared and committed. Reading the Law on Family before sounding the wedding bells would be a good idea too, according to experts.

Growing number of people divorce after living apart for long time

Still, the divorce rate is on the rise and continues to raise concerns for Mongolia as it leads to countless problems and challenges, starting from children’s custody, financial troubles, unemployment, and psychological problems like loneliness and depression, to name a few.

Head of the Family Studies Faculty at Ulaanbaatar University B.Oyun-Erdene said, “The divorce rate in Mongolia has rapidly increased since 1989. Latest studies indicate that one out of five families divorce on national-level and one out of three families in Ulaanbaatar. This is a very disheartening figure. Annually, 3,000 to 4,000 families are getting legally divorced. This is just the official rate. Separating families have one to two children, which means that around 10,000 children suffer in between the divorce process.”

B.Oyun-Erdene said that based on divorce papers, the top three reasons people decide to divorce are:

  1. Domestic violence, alcoholism and/ or lack of communication
  2. Infidelity and lack of commitment
  3. Living apart for a long time

Specialists noted that “living apart for a long time” is becoming common ground for divorce now that more and more people are working abroad. They warned that long separations lead to a lack of trust, jealousy, and infidelity. Therefore, it is advisable for married couples to move to another country together whether it’s for work or study.

NSO statistics of marriage and divorce rate in Mongolia since 2013


Divorce isn’t between just two people

People say that divorce is a matter between two people, but it’s not true. After separation, the two can find someone else to replace the void in their hearts but who will replace the space for a mother or father in children’s hearts? That space can’t be filled with someone else. This often leads to a lack of affection among children of divorce and the less contact they have with their divorced parents, they develop a lack of trust regarding intimate relationships and marriage, according to studies. Other significant risks of parental divorce include emotional insecurity, fear of abandonment, and rejection.

B.Oyun-Erdene explained, “Young children will not fully understand what a divorce is or fully express their thoughts about it but they will instinctively know that their parents are separating. Feeling the loss of their parent, the child will have memory problems and lose concentration. Common symptoms among young children of divorced parents include wetting the bed, becoming emotionally unstable, easy to anger and tendency to cry. Especially elementary school children have a hard time understanding lessons, their academic performance drops, they become antisocial, and start to dislike other people.”

“In teenagers, it’s common for them to hate one of their parents and consider themselves unlucky. They also lose confidence. Anger and strong hatred are common symptoms among teenagers. Sometimes, teenagers attempt to commit suicide as they feel like they are the source of their parents’ problem, try to lessen the tension between their parents and escape from the situation,” she added.

Family therapists underlined that the relationship between divorced parents greatly affects the mentality of children. Even if separated, mothers and fathers are advised to continue to show affection for their child to lessen the impact and shock of the divorce to the child.

Most importantly, parents should take care of their children and raise them well and yet some are putting their problems ahead of their responsibility to care for their children and choosing to divorce under grounds such as lack of communication, married too early, unrealistic expectations and lack of equality. Unless there’s a serious problem such as domestic violence, people need to try to sort out their problems before deciding to divorce, which if they have a child, can leave a permanent scar in their children’s hearts.

Don’t forget child support

Another issue that comes with divorce for people with children is child support. Some people seem to forget that their responsibility to care for their child remains even if their marriage fails. While there are people who live as if they don’t have a child after a divorce, there are people who avoid paying child support, according to family therapists.

In addition, child support payment is extremely low. The current Law on Family specifies that in the case of a divorce, child support equal to 50 percent of the minimum living standard, which is around 100,000 MNT per month, will be given to children under the age of 11. Children older than 11 years of age is specified to receive child support equal to the minimum living standard. This is nowhere near enough to support a child, especially if the parent has to stay at home to look after their young child. According to officials, 85 percent of divorced parents don’t provide child support.

Moreover, child support is out of question for people who lived together without registering their marriage and decided to separate. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, out of approximately 4,000 divorces that are approved by court, less than 1,000 are able to get child support.

“Only four percent of 4,200 families that divorced last year didn’t have children. Also, the amount of child support is fixed regardless of divorcee’s income. For instance, Bat earns a billion MNT a year but pays the same amount of child support as Dorj who earns less than a million MNT,” said Member of Parliament N.Uchral.

“People think that child support goes to their ex-husband or ex-wife, which is wrong. It’s a huge support for raising their child. It helps to ensure their child lives in a safe and healthy environment and able to exercise his/ her right to study.”

The ministry has submitted revisions to the Law on Family, which includes changes to child support. In particular, it aims to flexibly regulate child support amount depending on both parent’s income and number of children. It also suggest to set child support amount at 50 percent of the minimum living standard if the parent’s income is less than the regional minimum living standard.

As of April 2019, there were 72,000 single mothers and 19,500 single fathers in Mongolia, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. The changes to child support in the law is expected to support current and future single parents and help them raise their children in a better condition.

Conclusion

Neither marriage nor divorce is for the faint of heart. While marriage requires responsibility, divorce has consequences, especially for families with children. Neither should be done with a light heart.

People need to prepare for such significant life decisions. They need to learn to listen to their partner, be flexible, practice healthy communications, stay loyal to their spouse, be patient, and learn to apologize and forgive each other. There are tons of resources such as books, therapy services and even the internet to use as a reference to strengthen relationships. Amidst marital conflicts, take a break and give yourself and your partner space to calmly find a solution rather than jump to divorce as the answer, recommended an expert.

On the other hand, marriage and divorce are important issues for a nation. In this sense, the law needs to be improved and the state needs to help families make better choices by providing family education, workshops to help young people prepare for marriage, and family therapy.

Overall, people need to learn to make better decisions so that they can avoid unnecessary problems and challenges. We need to remember that marriage and divorce don’t involve just two people – it concerns the whole family and if there’s a child, they are affected the most whether the result is good or bad.

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan

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