No-fault divorce laws govern divorce proceedings in every state. Divorce laws were written in California in 1970 in response to divorce lawyers and judges who objected to what they called high conflict as a result of laws during that time. Over the next 40 years, each state jumped on board and eventually rewrote its existing divorce laws using California’s no-fault divorce laws as an example.
When there had to be “grounds for divorce” before a couple could divorce the results were a lot of people who wanted a divorce coming up with accusations of bad behavior that were false. Such accusations resulted in conflict between divorcing spouses and more work for divorce lawyers and judges.
No-fault divorce laws created legal changes that make it possible for one spouse to get a divorce without the permission of the other spouse. It introduced unilateral divorce and for the first time, one spouse could petition for divorce over the objections of the other spouse without having to prove fault.
In many states, these new no-fault laws also played a role in how marital property was distributed during divorce. Meaning, if a spouse had, had an affair or a history of domestic abuse such issues would not be taken into consideration when “who got what” during divorce settlement negotiations and whether or not a wife would be awarded spousal support.
As a result, many studies have shown that no-fault divorce laws increased the rate of divorce, in some states by as much as 88%, in others as little as ten percent. An increased rate in divorce means fewer couples and children will experience the security that comes along with living in a stable marriage.
Reasons No-Fault Divorce Laws Increased The Rate of Divorce
Hypothetically it made divorce less expensive for the party who wanted the divorce. The changes in the way property was split and the likelihood there would be less spousal support to pay went a long way in keeping the initiator of a divorce from suffering financially after the divorce.
Therefore, if a spouse’s bad behavior can’t be taken into consideration when filing for divorce and dividing property during divorce bad behavior can be promoted which, in turn, will promote more divorce.
No-fault divorce laws took away the ability of the spouse being left to negotiate in a way that could possibly save the marriage. When fault still had to be proven before a spouse could divorce, the spouse initiating the divorce had to pay in some way. Women paid by losing custody of their children. Men paid financially, normally by having to provide a home for the family he left and spousal support for the wife. No-fault divorce law took away the meaning behind that old saying, “it is cheaper to keep her.”
“Our principal finding is that divorce levels are positively and significantly correlated with state laws that do not penalize marital misbehavior at the time of divorce. Our study of divorce rates from 1988 to 1991 provides the strongest evidence to date that no-fault divorce laws are associated with higher divorce rates,” says Margaret Brinig, Author of No-Fault Laws and At-Fault People International Review of Law and Economics.
As a result of the increase in divorce rates in the United States society has changed its view of exactly what a marriage is. By law marriage is the uniting of two people as husband and wife in a consensual and contractual relationship is of little meaning to most who marry today.
A union that binds two people legally and in most cases produces children is treated with less respect than two companies that contract with each other to do business. It is in fact, harder to get out of a business contract than a marriage contract. There are legal consequences to breaking a business contract, there are no consequences to breaking a marital contract.
How Society Has Changed Due to No-Fault Divorce Laws
People are more tolerant of single women having children even though 69% of those surveyed by the Pew Family Research Center said that the trend was troubling to them. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said that children fare better when raised in a home with both a more and father.
Although most surveyed agreed that having a child out of wedlock was bad for society, we as a society look the other way. Although the cost to taxpayers is 112 billion a year society looks the other way.
The future of our society depends on the stability of future generations, when the majority of children are being raised by a single parent which has been proven to be bad for the emotional welfare of children what does that say for the future of society?
One of the thoughts behind no-fault divorce laws was that being able to divorce easily would allow people to move on to happier marriages. There was the belief that people would learn from their mistakes and make better choices the next time around.
Statistics show though that second marriages end in divorce at a rate of 60% while third marriages end in divorce 73% of the time. It would seem that no-fault divorce laws did not motivate people to change bad behaviors but turned them into folks who don’t know how to make and stand by a commitment. </ul>
Saving Families and Society by Rewriting No-Fault Divorce Laws
Rewriting divorce laws does not mean forcing people to stay in marriages they are not happy in which seems to be the biggest argument against changing divorce laws. Putting requirements such as therapy before a divorce is permitted or the need to be legally separated for a period of time would allow folks to divorce but also give them the education and time needed to make an informed decision about divorce.
If no-fault divorce laws are not rewritten as a whole, not just laws that pertain to child support or spousal support we will be failing our children. There is a new generation growing up and it will one day be their job to hold society together. If marriages continue to fail at a 50% rate we are failing our children and society too.
There is a lot of focus in marriage on being happy. People are expecting marriage to make them happy; when their expectations aren’t met divorce is an easy way out. Instead of focusing on building and maintaining the family unit, one made up of a mother and father which will ensure a better future for society and our children.
Most divorces, some say the percentage is as high as 70% are from low-conflict marriages. According to Dr. Paul Amato, “low-conflict marriages that end in divorce are very damaging to children the surprised children have not been aware of the discord.”
The choice, Dr. Amato says, is not between staying in a marriage and being miserable or bailing out. “The choice is often being moderately happy in the marriage and getting a divorce. For 55 percent to 60 percent of couples, these are not bad marriages. They are just not ecstatic marriages.”
I’ve spent 10 years working with clients as a relationship and, a divorce coach. I’ve learned through my experience with clients that being “moderately happy” in your marriage far outweighs the stress and difficulty that comes once there is a divorce. If what it takes to hold families together is to rewrite no-fault divorce laws that make it easy to skip out on a commitment to a spouse and children, I’m all for scrapping no-fault divorce laws and starting over.