Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New Austrian Divorce Law

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
Our readers are probably wondering what Austrian divorce laws have to do with ski racing. The Blickbild is a World Cup ski racing site and not a marriage or law site. However, our intrepid research team found out that Austria passed a new divorce law that has a direct relationship to ski racing. Starting on 1 September 2013, refusal to let a spouse attend a World Cup ski race is grounds for divorce. Here to talk with us is Salzburg attorney Thomas Gruber, whose client was responsible for getting this law passed. The client, Maria T, did not wish to be interviewed because she wishes to maintain her anonymity. Let's find out what Herr Gruber has to say.
BB: Are you related to retired skiing star Christof Gruber?
Gruber: No. Gruber is a very common surname in Austria.
BB: Tell us about the new Austrian divorce law.
Gruber: It says that one spouse has grounds for divorce if the other spouse refuses to let him or her attend a World Cup ski race.
BB: That seems a bit over the top. People don't get divorced because their spouses say that they can't go shopping or to a concert. Why is this such a big deal?
Gruber: You are not from Austria, so you don't understand. Ski racing is Austria's national pastime. It is the biggest thing in the country.
BB: Sports in the States like American football or baseball are also national pastimes. But couples don't get divorced because a woman doesn't want her husband to attend a football (American football) game.
Gruber: Let me put this in perspective for you. When boys are born in Austria, their rooms are decorated with posters of famous Austrian ski racers like Franz Klammer, Hermann Maier, and  Benjamin Raich. Baby girls have photos of Renate Goetschl, Annemarie Moser-Proell, and Elisabeth Goergl in their rooms. An entrance requirement for first grade in Austrian schools is being able to recognize past and current ski racers. One of the required subjects on both the high school graduation and university entrance exams is ski racing.
BB: What do school exams have to do with divorce law?
Gruber: I'm getting there. I wanted to add that the only programs on Austrian TV are about ski racing. The different Austrian channels either show live races, replays of races from different eras, and interviews with past and current ski racers. There are quiz shows on Austrian TV, but all of the questions are about ski racing. The only thing on Austrian TV that does not have to do with ski racing is the news. But the sports report on the news is about ski racing.
BB: I noticed that when I flipped through the TV channels in my hotel room. Anyway, let's get back to the subject of divorce.
Gruber: I will. I was just giving you some background information.
BB: Thank you. Our readers will appreciate it. Can you tell us about Maria T. and how she got the law changed?
Gruber: Maria is a secretary for a firm in Salzburg that makes ski clothing. She had been married for ten years. Like all of the other girls in Austria, Maria grew up following ski racing. After getting married, she and her husband would drive to Flachau for the races. They would also attend races in other parts of Austria, though Maria could tell that her husband's heart really wasn't in it. In 2009 Maria wanted to go to the season-opening races in Soelden with some of her girlfriends and her husband told her that she couldn't. She then told her husband that she wanted a divorce. He told her to fight him in court, since refusal to let a spouse attend a race was not considered grounds for divorce.
BB: I see. How were you able to obtain a divorce for Maria?
Gruber: My strategy with Maria was to show that not being permitted to attend a ski race was the same thing as psychological abuse. Her husband may not have abused her physically, but she felt like she was being kept a prisoner in her own home. Maria also felt that her husband was not respecting her culture. In addition, he told Maria that they could not afford for her to go to Soelden with her friends, yet he was spending money to attend Red Bull Salzburg football games with his friends.
BB: Is her ex-husband a foreigner?
Gruber: Yes. He is originally from the USA. Therefore, he did not respect the fact that ski racing is a vital part of Austrian culture. He became an Austrian citizen, but evidently forgot what he learned in his citizenship exam prep classes.
BB: How exactly is not permitting a spouse to attend a ski race akin to abuse?
Gruber: Imagine that you are a religious person and your spouse won't let you go to church. Or think about those poor women whose husbands don't let them go shopping, have jobs, or go to a restaurant with their friends. This is considered mental cruelty, which is grounds for divorce in Austria. Because of Maria and her case, we were able to expand the definition of mental cruelty to not being allowed to attend a ski race. When the judge heard our case, he sided with Maria and granted her a divorce.
BB: To me there is a difference between not being able to go to the grocery store on your own and not going to a race. If you don't go to a race, you can always watch it on TV.
Gruber: That's not the point. The issue was that Maria was prevented from doing something that is culturally important to her. It is part of who she is and she was adversely affected by her husband's cruelty.
BB: Was this new law declared constitutional by the Austrian Supreme Court?
Gruber: Yes. The Supreme Court just deemed it constitutional and the Legislature passed it by a nine-to-one margin. I'm sure that the people who voted against it will not be re-elected.
BB: What about a husband who tells his wife that she can't go to a race because the family can't afford it? Hotels, restaurants, and race tickets can be quite expensive.
Gruber: The new law addresses this issue by setting up a fund to help Austrian citizens afford to attend ski races. People can apply for money from this fund, which does not need to be paid back. The deadline for applying for this season's races is 1 October. This fund can be used for race tickets, hotels, and meals. Other items, such as souvenirs, are not covered.
BB: Do you think that there will be a rush of spouses filing for divorce because they can't attend ski races?
Gruber: No, I think that the new law will have the opposite effect. Married couples will be able to stay together because, thanks to the new fund, they will be able to afford to go to the races. Couples will also realize that it is in their best interest to let a husband or wife attend a race, especially if there are no other marital issues. Austria's cultural heritage will be preserved for generations to come thanks to Maria.
BB: By the way, what happened to Maria's ex-husband?
Gruber: He moved to Innsbruck and is working as an engineer. Last year he remarried and he and his wife are expecting a baby. His wife's due date is 26 October, which is ironically the opening day in Soelden this coming season.
BB: Herr Gruber, our time is coming to an end. I want to thank you for this interview. I'm sure that husbands and wives all over Austria are also thanking you. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: We don't have to worry about our intrepid reporters getting divorced when they go to ski races because they have press passes.

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1 comment:

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