Did you know that our 16th President was a Divorce Lawyer? While he did handle railroad cases, tax cases and murder cases, his “bread and butter” was divorce law.
Today, on its 150th anniversary, the country is remembering the Gettysburg Address and the great man that delivered the speech. Abraham Lincoln was not only a great leader and an advocate for the abolition of slavery, but was a sensitive, pragmatic man who practiced law for 25 years.
Between 1837 and 1861 Lincoln and his three law partners handled 131 divorce cases in 17 Illinois county circuit courts. The state of Illinois was one of the first in America to grant divorces, make custody orders and provide alimony.
Grounds for divorce in Illinois included desertion, adultery, habitual drunkenness, repeated cruelty, impotency, bigamy, and felony conviction.
One case in particular reveals Lincoln’s approach to the business of divorce, which he apparently disliked but considered a necessary evil. In Rogers v. Rogers Lincoln was retained to act for Sam Rogers who sought a divorce on the basis of his wife’s desertion and her adultery. Lincoln persuaded his client that he didn’t need to rely on two grounds for divorce and recommended the divorce proceed under the ground of desertion.
The reason Lincoln chose not to pursue a divorce on the basis of adultery was to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment to his client’s wife. His sensitive approach, however, backfired, as his client was ordered to pay $,1000.00 in alimony to his wife. Had he also plead adultery, his client would have paid nothing or a nominal amount. Fortunately for his client Lincoln was able to reverse the alimony ruling and undoubtedly learned a lesson in the process.
No one enters marriage assuming that divorce will be a likely outcome. We are by nature an optimistic people. But divorces do occur. It is easy to blame another, be bitter, and treat divorce like battle. The only problem with that scenario is that it leaves us nowhere near where we want to be in life.
If divorce is inevitable take the time to consider how America’s 16th President handled these situations. Remember that your actions and words reflect on you, not just your spouse. Think of the impression you leave upon your children and loved ones as you decide what is best for you.