Critique: “Divorced: What to Do When,” Focus on the Family article, by Ron Blue, Jeremy L. White

 

This is a critique and analysis of the Focus on the Family article, "Divorced: What to Do When," by Ron Blue and Jeremy L. White.

SUMMARY of “Divorced: What to Do When,” Focus on the Family article, by Ron Blue, Jeremy L. White

 

Summary: There's some good advice in this article, but a lot of problems too. The authors of this article tell women to act right when divorcing but not men, despite the fact that nearly 1 in 3 Focus on the Family website visitors are men. They also broad-brush Christian divorcees as people who don't care about God and don't value marriage, making no exceptions for victims of abuse, betrayal, abandonment, or even pedophilia. They don't acknowledge that one person in the marriage may be choosing to abuse the other person. They also gave incorrect tax advice from 1/1/2019 until 2/23/2022, until it was brought to their attention this week and they deleted it.

 

Who am I?
I'm a committed Evangelical Christian. I serve, tithe, attend and care about my church and my Lord. I've given thousands of dollars to Focus on the Family. I used to recommend their books. I listened to their broadcasts and got their magazines for many years. I sent my kids on their very expensive overseas Brio missions trips. I've attended conferences at their headquarters and visited their lovely bookstore. I've heard their president, Jim Daly, speak live several times. But I won't give Focus another dime until they condone divorce for domestic violence and stop misleading people about the effects of divorce on children.

 

 

  • FIXED: Ron Blue and Jeremy L. White were slow to update their tax advice, but they finally did. It was incorrect for 3 years (for people who divorced after 2018).  On 2/23/22 it was finally updated on the Focus on the Family website. If you followed the advice in the original article, you might have violated IRS regulations and suffered fines and penalties.  Here's the newly revised 2-23-22 version of the article: LINK.] The authors updated this article the day after I started blogging and posting on Facebook about how bad it was.

 

 

They FIXED one problem but left the rest. Although there is some good advice in the original article posted in 2008 (see comments below), a lot of it is misleading.  LINK to the version that was online 2008-2022.

 

  • NOT FIXED: The article makes inaccurate claims about why people divorce.  They didn't fix the inaccurate suggestion that divorce is for falling out of love and the accusation that Christians who file aren't "upholding marriage." This is offensive to the committed Christian wives (and husbands) who stayed while being abused or cheated on for decades and paid the price, thanks to articles that ignore this behavior. The authors claim that the majority of people who divorce point to financial problems that "fostered" the breakup, suggesting that it's all about money. But that's not what the key surveys show. Major surveys show that the top 5 reasons for divorce include are adultery, abuse, and addictions. "Money problems" are ranked lower. Authors Blue and White don't probe any further to ask, "Why are there financial problems?" Ask any infidelity or domestic violence victim: Financial problems are often a result of affairs, sexual immorality, greed, drugs, and alcohol. Their spouse stripped the family resources to support their trysts, substance abuse, selfish hobbies, or secret life.

 

  • NOT FIXED: Ron Blue is misogynistic in his advice. He tells women not to be greedy but doesn't say the same thing to men.  He writes, "Your goal should not be to “get” your husband or take him for all he’s worth, but to be sure you and your children are provided for." (According to Focus on the Family's media kit, nearly 1 in 3 website visitors are men, which means 300,000 men each month on average.) And frankly, where it comes to wives, I haven't seen that "take him for everything" attitude much in my 20 years of leading Christian divorce recovery groups. Women might be angry at their husband's serial adultery and abandonment of the family, but often if there is physical or emotional abuse or addictions, they just want relief from the destruction and chaos and are happy to get out with their fair half of the assets. In fact, what I typically see is that court-mandated child support is either not paid, partially paid, or not paid in a timely fashion. (See data in next point.)

 

  • NOT FIXED: Ron Blue gives NO advice to men to be fair to their wives and to comply with the 50/50 distribution of assets (or fair distribution), which is the typical state guideline. There is NO advice to pay child support fully and regularly.  So the article suggests that women want to take ALL the assets, but there's nothing about men not cooperating with the state guidelines and court-ordered care for their children.  Why does Ron Blue ignore them and let them off the hook when he talks about women's financial vulnerability after divorce?  It seems that one solution to women's vulnerability is telling men to do what is right. (By the way, one-sided articles like this, which lack accountability for divorced husbands, is why abusers feel very comfortable sharing Focus on the Family's articles and commenting on their Facebook page.) Fact is fact: Failure to pay child support is a serious problem. According to the 2017 U.S. Census, "Less than half (45.9 percent) of custodial parents who were supposed to receive child support received full child support payments."

 

  • NOT FIXED: Ron Blue and Jeremy L. White are out of touch with research on divorce. They suggested that divorce is for "falling out of love" and due to people who don't "uphold marriage." They show no awareness that half of divorces in the U.S. are for life-saving reasons according to four key studies. In addition, they seem to be clueless about the amount of abuse in Christian homes. It's like they don't acknowledge that one person in the marriage is choosing to abuse the other person. In 2019, a pro-marriage organization, The Institute for Family Studies, released their findings that 1 in 4 highly religious marriages surveyed reported interpersonal violence.

 

  • NOT FIXED: The authors use the so-called "God hates divorce" verse that makes it appear that God is against divorce for any reason. The interpretation "God hates divorce" was invented by King James's translators in 1611. For the prior 2,100 years, Malachi 2:16 was not interpreted that way. Not by John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Septuagint, or Jerome. Starting in 1996, after the discovery and publication of the Dead Sea scroll of Malachi (the oldest known copy of the verse), no new major Bible translation has used that wording, not the NIV 2011 update, not the ESV from Crossway, not the CSB from LifeWay.  The Bible condones (and in some places even commands) divorce. See this article: www.lifesavingdivorce.com/abuse-in-bible  Even the average Protestant pastor is more in touch than Mssrs. Blue and White. As of 2015, 3 in 4 Protestant pastors surveyed said divorce was not a sin for abuse. The same survey also found that the majority of those pastors did not view divorce as a sin for adultery or porn addiction.

 

DETAILED CRITIQUE of “Divorced: What to Do When,” Focus on the Family article, by Ron Blue, Jeremy L. White

 

Focus on the Family created (1) a Facebook post on 2/22/22, and a link to (2) Ron Blue and Jeremy L. White's 2008 article. Notice that the 2022 Facebook post never tells you the tax information is not valid for divorces on or after 1/1/2019, or for prior divorces that were later modified.  See this link to the IRS website. See the second paragraph: https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc452

See the Facebook post and the article below. I'm going to critique them separately.

#1—HERE'S THE FACEBOOK POST on Feb 22, 2022 [link]

This Facebook Post appeared on Focus on the Family's page on Feb 22, 2022.
This Facebook Post appeared on Focus on the Family's page on Feb 22, 2022.

The Facebook post wording is mostly from the article, except for the disclaimer at the bottom.

  • 1.—This post depicts Christian divorcees as quitters who divorced just for “falling out of love.”  This is a ridiculous accusation. 1 in 4 highly religious homes have interpersonal violence. And people who identify as Christians have just as high an adultery rate as the rest of the U.S.

.

  • 2.—There is no mention of adultery, porn addictions, violence, coercive control, family-crushing additions, severe indifference, neglect, or abandonment. These reasons make up about half of divorces in the United States.

.

  • 3.—Focus on the Family suggests that the person who files for divorce is the one who doesn’t take their vows seriously. In reality, it’s the abuser, cheater, narcissist, egotist, deceiver, swindler, or addict who doesn’t.

.

  • 4.—The post suggests that your commitment to love means that you cannot divorce. You must “uphold marriage” through “thick and thin” no matter what your spouse does to you. (TRUTH: The concept of “For better or for worse” means, “No matter what life throws at us.” It does not mean “no matter what my spouse does to me,” as Brenda Linn says.)

.

  • 5.—The post is correct when it says there will be a lot of psychological, emotional, and financial adjustments after divorce, but it doesn’t admit that there was likely psychological, emotional, and financial destruction happening in the marriage before the divorce.

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  • 6.—The disclaimer at the bottom of the Facebook post is ineffective and hypocritical. How can I say that? Because Focus on the Family does not condone divorce for domestic violence, EVER. It doesn’t matter if your spouse holds a gun to your face, chains the children to their bed, intimidates you, withholds money for food and clothing, or threatens the pets. Focus on the Family doesn’t believe in divorce for abuse. www.lifesavingdivorce.com/fotfdivorce  (Are you sure you want to continue donating to them or sharing their articles?)

.

  • 7.—The phrase "God hates divorce" is not the traditional or currently accepted interpretation of Malachi 2:16. Does Malachi 2:16 really say "God hates divorce"? No. The interpretation "God hates divorce" was invented by King James's translators in 1611. For the prior 2,100 years, it was not interpreted that way. Not by John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Septuagint, or Jerome. They interpreted it as a condemnation of a man who hates his wife and divorces her unjustly. The KJV was a radical departure. It went way off the ranch. Good news! Starting in 1996, after the discovery and publication of the Dead Sea scroll of Malachi (the oldest known copy of the verse), no new major Bible translation has used that wording, not the NIV 2011 update, not the ESV from Crossway, not the CSB from LifeWay. http://www.lifesavingdivorce.com/malachi

 

  • 8.—Focus claims they are dedicated to bringing "healing and restoration" to families, but they aren't very good at it. To their credit, they do teach people to take marriage seriously. They do teach people to work through basic communication skills, and they teach people to not give up easily. But they also tell you that their counselors and programs can help. They make claims about having miraculous results, but they refuse to show any evidence. Follow this link to see the stories of three women who went to one of their $4,000-$6,000 marriage intensives. Their abusive/destructive marriages didn't experience the miraculous result they were promised. www.lifesavingdivorce.com/fotfevidence.

 

#2—Now Let’s Evaluate the Linked Article (Some better insights in the rest of the article.)

Ron Blue and Jeremy L. White's article on Focus on the Family "Divorced: What To Do When"
Ron Blue and Jeremy L. White's article on Focus on the Family "Divorced: What To Do When"

There is some very good advice in this article. So let’s start with the pros.

 

  • —The article “Divorced: What To Do When” by Ron Blue and Jeremy White tells you to pick a competent and trusted advisor. (I’d recommend a good attorney first, and then perhaps a divorce coach to help you organize your paperwork in a timely fashion and to be a "thinking partner" as you consider your options. Only attorneys in your area (your jurisdiction) can give legal advice for your case. Coaches, friends, and pastors are prohibited from the unauthorized practice of law.

 

  • —They suggest that you also pick someone who has gone through a similar situation. In general, I think this is good advice. But that friend should be used for support, encouragement, and prayer, not for legal advice. The laws and the temperament of the court change over time. What might have worked in their situation legally and financially may not work in yours.

 

  • —They brace you that the cost of divorce may be significant depending on the assets you hold, whether you have businesses or real estate, and whether or not you have minor children. In my private Facebook group for Christians going through separation or divorce, about one-half say their divorce was easier than they expected or about what they expected. But if you have a lot of complex assets or a deceitful or abusive spouse who has no conscience, you may be up for a long divorce process.

 

  • —They warn against a do-it-yourself divorce. They recommend having a competent attorney. However, I’m not sure that their advice about asking your pastors for an attorney is a good idea unless you trust your pastor’s support. You can try. Sometimes the people who know the best attorneys in your area are firefighters and police.

 

  • —They are correct when they say that contentiousness increases the cost of divorce. But sometimes the contentiousness is not on your side. They don't admit there are so-called Christian spouses who choose to abuse and harass through the court system. The victim is only asking for what is fair and right and normal according to state guidelines, and an abusive spouse does almost everything they can to refuse, block, and delay.

 

  • —In their 6-point numbered list, they have 4 excellent suggestions, such as (#1) establishing credit in your own name, (#2) listing all assets, (#5) setting up a savings account in your own name before anyone files for divorce, and (#6) making a list of the expenses involved with running a household. But see below for caveats for points numbered #3 and #4.

 

  • —Although their 2008 tax information (which they deleted) is no longer accurate (legally, since 1/1/2019, alimony is not deductible to the payor according to the IRS), the rest of their general advice on retirement funds property transfers and gains from stock and real estate sales is helpful.

 

 

 

What Are The Cons?

 

  • —Possibly Dangerous Advice: In their 6-point tip list, they tell you (#3) to talk to your banker or broker BEFORE filing for divorce. That may not be a good thing to do unless you have your attorney's thumbs-up. Do not notify your bank or brokerage about an impending divorce without discussing it with your attorney. This advice can backfire, and your banker or financial planner might tip off your spouse of your intentions. Your spouse may empty the accounts or ring up a large debt prior to the filing (like buying a new car), which may be 100% legal to do until someone files paperwork. Your bank and financial planner won’t protect you without a court order. Please consult with your attorney.

 

  • —Ron Blue and Jeremy L. White don't understand why Christians divorce. Their comments at the top of the article are demeaning to Christian divorcees, and their viewpoint traps people in destructive marriages when divorce might save their life and sanity—and their children's. And as I stated above, this article depicts Christian divorcees as quitters who divorced just for “falling out of love.”  They don't acknowledge that one spouse is choosing to abuse or betray the other. 1 in 4 highly religious homes experiences interpersonal violence. And people who identify as Christians have just as high an adultery rate as the rest of the U.S.

 

  • —There is no mention of adultery, porn addictions, violence, coercive control, family-crushing additions, severe indifference, neglect, or abandonment. These reasons make up about half of divorces in the United States.

 

  • —Focus on the Family suggests that the person who files for divorce is the one who doesn’t take their vows seriously. In reality, it’s the abuser, cheater, narcissist, egotist, deceiver, swindler, or addict who doesn’t.

 

  • —The article suggests that your commitment to love means that you cannot divorce. You must “uphold marriage” through “thick and thin” no matter what your spouse does to you. (TRUTH: The concept of “For better or for worse” means, “No matter what life throws at us.” It does not mean “no matter what my spouse does to me,” as Brenda Linn says.)

 

  • —The article is correct when it says there will be a lot of psychological, emotional, and financial adjustments after divorce, but it doesn’t admit that there was likely psychological, emotional, and financial destruction happening in the marriage before the divorce.

 

  • —The phrase "God hates divorce" is not the traditional or currently accepted interpretation of Malachi 2:16. Does Malachi 2:16 really say "God hates divorce"? No. The interpretation "God hates divorce" was invented by King James's translators in 1611. For the prior 2,100 years, it was not interpreted that way. Not by John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Septuagint, or Jerome. They interpreted it as a condemnation of a man who hates his wife and divorces her unjustly. The KJV was a radical departure. It went way off the ranch. Good news! Starting in 1996, after the discovery and publication of the Dead Sea scroll of Malachi (the oldest known copy of the verse), no new major Bible translation has used that wording, not the NIV 2011 update, not the ESV from Crossway, not the CSB from LifeWay. http://www.lifesavingdivorce.com/malachi

 

 

 Focus on the Family is an unsafe ministry.

For more examples of their misleading and destructive articles, go HERE.

https://lifesavingdivorce.com/category/focus-on-the-family/

 


Are you going through a life-saving divorce and need support and clarity? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 4 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book about spiritual abuse and divorce for Christians, The Life-Saving Divorce: Paperback: https://amzn.to/3cF1j25  Or eBook: https://amzn.to/3CCBsnr

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