Well, as civil as could be expected, given the circumstances...
March 28, 2007 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Am I "currently a party in a civil suit"? I'm getting divorced. I need to know for my Peace Corps application.

I've filed for divorce in Cherokee County, GA and the complaint has been sent to my wife (the words "irretrievably broken" were used, I assume as the "fault". I'm sorry for the "quotes," but I don't know what the correct legalese is, what's no longer used, and what the internets have made up completely). Soon we will have a settlement agreement, but that hasn't been filed yet. So is this considered a "civil suit"?
If it is, does anyone know whether it would be better for me to go ahead and mark "Yes" in my Peace Corps application and give the details, or just wait the hopefully month or two until the divorce is final? Which would delay the application more?
posted by solotoro to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes. But I think that the Peace Corps is mostly interested in whether you are running from creditors. I can't see how disclosing a divorce proceeding would hold up your application, unless the Peace Corps is weird that way.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:04 PM on March 28, 2007

I would write: Yes (uncontested divorce pending).

Or something similarly mild.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:05 PM on March 28, 2007

FYI, I recently filled out a Peace Corps reference form for a friend who was applying, and the very first question was: Are you aware of any major life changes or problems the applicant may be trying to escape, such as a divorce, debt or legal troubles?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:39 PM on March 28, 2007

Lo-Carb has it. In case the divorce gets nasty, the Corps doesn't want you to be halfway around the world and unable to represent yourself in court, or better yet, unable to fulfill your two-year commitment to them.
posted by Brittanie at 3:22 PM on March 28, 2007

Nix my comment above, given Lo-Carb's recent experience. That is, if you can wait, wait.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 3:43 PM on March 28, 2007

Why not call Peace Corps and ask? Your recruiter can probably answer this; if not, or if you aren't confident that the answer they give you is accurate, call the 800-number for the DC office and try to get through to someone useful there. If you want anonymity, have a friend call for you. (Or just call yourself, and say, "I have this friend...")

As it stands, I think you need to tell them about your (impending) divorce, but where on the application that information should go might be an issue. Don't not tell them -- if you say that nothing's going on, and your references tell a different story, it will derail the application. Most likely they will want reassurance that a) you are not joining the Peace Corps as a way to escape a bad marriage or to teach your ex a lesson, or b) that you will not be facing alimony or child support payments that you will not be able to pay on a Volunteer's stipend, or c) that you will not be called back to your home state after a year to go through another set of legal proceedings.
posted by Forktine at 4:31 PM on March 28, 2007

Best answer: speaking as someone who was just invited to a corps program ...

it might not be the answer you want to hear, but lo-carb and forktine are correct; full disclosure in this situation is your best bet, and for a few reasons:
--they find out you withheld information, and that's the ballgame. you're unlikely to be invited now, and this will quite possibly hurt your chances in the future, should you choose to re-apply.
--they need to know about legal/financial obligations, as these could affect your service. it's part of the song, but it really is true that these communities often have to jump through many hoops to get a PCV assigned to their area. once you're there, it's in nobody's best interests that you get pulled away.
--there is a lot of evaluation that happens to determine whether you are mentally/emotionally capable of handling what's coming in the 27 months of service (as you've gotten a taste of if you've had your evaluation interview). you may not think that your impending divorce will affect you, and it's quite possible you're correct, but there are a lot of people who have found out they're wrong the hard way.
--being up-front now may not delay your departure. not having any legal/financial obligations, i can't speak for how those issues are addressed, but they may evaluate your situation further and deem you fit for service, they may have you sign something, or produce documentation to the effect that your obligations will be resolved before the departure date of the program you're nominated for, or they may recommend you voluntarily withdraw your application until your issues are resolved. if you withdraw, you wouldn't have to re-apply; you could pick up where you left off once your obligations were resolved, and it wouldn't hurt your application process in any way. (i did this, in order to gain more volunteering experience, it only delayed my acceptance by a couple of months, and i was invited to the program suggested before my withdrawal).

bottom line is: if you're straightforward with them, they will like as not be as helpful as possible, and offer you some options. if you try to hide it, there's a good chance they'll find out, and you'll have many more problems.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 7:26 PM on March 28, 2007

This is a model of why asking a question to this group can be helpful. Might I add one thing? It seems to me that people are alluding to two, maybe three, reasons this might interest the Peace Corps: (1) because ongoing proceedings can complicate being posted abroad; (2) because those recently divorced may be in turmoil, fleeing their problems, or something like that; and (3) because lying or withholding information is a sign of bad character.

The problem with numbers 2 and 3, to my understanding, is that so far as we're told the only question implicating the OP's divorce is whether there's a pending proceeding. How does the Peace Corps application get at whether there's been a recent (but concluded) divorce? And how could the OP be faulted if he fails to disclose something not asked, if he files later? If a reference mentions the divorce, not his fault.

I'd bet the form has a seemingly benign "status" question -- single/married/divorced/widowed -- and THAT answer certainly has to be reconciled with the "pending proceedings" one, and both (not just the one) answered truthfully. Here, sounds like "married" and "pending divorce proceedings" would apply if the application were filed now; if after finalization, "divorced" (or "single" if divorced isn't an option) and "no" to pending proceedings. But if there's no such question, it's a little obscure why the OP should get into this all if he waits to apply, or even where the point would be expressed.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:20 PM on March 28, 2007

I am looking after a house for someone currently in the Peace Corps and there is a part in the proceedings where you pretty much have to explain or verify that you don't have any outstanding financial entanglements or messes that are going to cause you to have to come back home in a hurry. In her case, she had to explain who was looking after her house, paying her bills, dealing with her mail etc (she's not married and me and one of her kids is taking care of this but it needed to be outlined to the PC people)

So, if the divorce isn't going to result in some sort of messy and problematic divition of stuff that *will* be contested, I'd be as honest as possible. If things might be a little complicated, keep in mind what the PC people are looking out for and try to be as up front as you can without giving the totally wrong impression without firther explanation.
posted by jessamyn at 10:48 PM on March 28, 2007

Response by poster: The line of the application that gave rise to this question is what I quoted - whether I am currently a party in a civil suit. So my main question was whether a divorce IS considered a civil suit, or some other animal. And also I wondered whether once a settlement is filed (but before the final hearing) whether it is still considered a civil suit or something else, though I was lamentably unclear on that aspect.

And I'm not trying to hide that I'm getting divorced. It would be silly. I'm not running away from it, but it has certainly made me examine my life and what I want to do, so it would be fair to say it's part of the reason I've decided to apply.

So the second part of my question was really about whether checking the "yes" box for a civil suit would result in a more protracted evaluation process, as opposed to waiting until it was final.

Oh and Clyde Mnestra, they do a background check. I'm sure it would turn up somehow. Like I said, I'm not interested in hiding my divorce, but I *am* interested in how much the current status may affect my application.

Many thanks to all, and I will talk to a recruiter. I hadn't yet, and this site struck me as a likely resource to find lawyerly types to answer the first part of the question and PC people who could respond to the second.
posted by solotoro at 10:26 AM on March 29, 2007

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