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September 24 2013
Divorce Reform: Should we make it harder to get Divorced?
In marriages where the partners are, even after thoughtful reconsideration and counsel, estranged beyond reconciliation, we recognize divorce and the right of divorced persons to remarry, and express our concern for the needs of the children of such unions. To this end we encourage an active, accepting, and enabling commitment of the Church and our society to minister to the needs of divorced persons. Evolution of Divorce Wilcox
The sanctimonies act of marriage is no longer viewed as a sacred bond between husband and wife. So many people will argue this fact since the early 1970’s. Many Americans will argue that marriage almost always results in divorce, resulting in a downward mobility for many families. The stem of this issue has been brought on since the signing of the first no-fault divorce bill back in 1969, by then Governor of California Ronal Reagan, this new law allowed couples permission to divorce solely on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. As opposed to the previous fault law, which called for one of the parties to prove the other was guilty of adultery, desertion, abuse whether controlled substance or physical, these fault grounds also included imprisonment and extreme cruelty. After California changed its divorce law, every state passed the change for their versions of no-fault divorce laws. Which many feel is the reason divorce rates skyrocketed from 1970 to 1980.
As these divorce rates climbed many law makers felt it was time for a change, however, the only changes that have been proposed weren’t necessarily changes. Many law makers would like to reform the no-fault divorce laws and return to fault divorce. Many argue that divorces are so easily obtained that it leaves non-consenting spouses without a safety net; another argument is that high amounts of divorces are very detrimental to minor children who have no say. As a married man I do feel that marriage is a sacred bond that should be cherished and held to a high standard, however, as the push for divorce reform maybe be a one solid solution, research might persuade otherwise.
One of the fears of divorce is based on the aftermath of the non-consenting spouse and the effects it may or may not have on them. Roberta Kirwan, a reporter for Money News line, says, “under no-fault, any spouse who declares that the marriages irretrievably broken has grounds for divorce” (Money Newsline). Jessie Dalman says, “We cannot ignore a divorce system that makes it easy to destroy families” (qtd. in Kirwan). Any one spouse can go to a divorce lawyer and file for divorce regardless of how the other feels or wants. David Bakke illustrates, “The divorce rate in this country is far too high, many people jump into marriage hastily, realize they’ve made a mistake and look to divorce as an easy way out. The concept of marriage should be taken far more seriously and anyone who has been through a divorce would likely agree. Whether or not kids are involved, divorce stinks. The toll it takes on you professionally and emotionally can destroy you if you allow it to. I seriously doubt people fully grasp this fact before getting married” (qtd. in Israelsen-Hartley). These arguments are mostly in reference to the husband wanting a divorce, not so much the other way around.
Many believe that it’s not fair to most women, solely for fact it could leave them in financial failure. In other words female spouses after a divorce don’t have a solid income or more simply the means to take care of themselves. So is divorce reform the correct solution? Forcing a couple to stay together simply because one spouse was the sole bread winner and a divorce will financially devastate the other? If this was the year 1940, these questions may be viewed a little differently. In his discussion of divorce, Galston argues when the laws were created “a [woman’s] role in society was almost totally that of mother and homemaker. She could not even vote. Today, increasing numbers of married woman are employed, even in the professions. In addition, they have long been accorded full civil rights. Their approaching equality with the male should be reflected in the law governing marriage dissolution and in the decisions of courts with respect to matters incident to dissolution” (Galston). In other words the arguments for us to go back to fault based divorce laws, because one spouse may suffer a decline in their standard of living doesn’t justify the answer for divorce reform. For the simple reason that woman have entered the workforce as well as men, instead of women receiving the majority of their property during divorce it is typically split down the middle fairly in most cases. Galston points out that “the now vanished fault system afforded some protection for women who chose (in economic terms) to specialize in household responsibilities. Protection was necessary because the cost of this decision is on average a permanent reduction of earnings potential in the paid workforce. The adoption of no-fault divorce has had two predictable effects.
Older women caught in the transition, with no opportunity to adjust, found themselves much worse off after divorce. Younger women adjusted by accelerating their movement toward economic independence. While the growth of real wages accounts for most of the increase in female labor-force participation between 1950 and 1980, no-fault divorce has been shown to have had an independent effect on women’s paid labor since then” (Galston). It goes without saying that reverting back to fault divorce laws will not only hinder the progress woman have made in society but it will also bring back the glass ceiling that woman have fought so hard to break out from. In his discussion of Divorce reform, Robbins declares that “the reinstitution of fault divorces has no place in our law today. The reasons it was repealed in 1972 still exist today. It is ridiculous to think that the introduction of such a bill would somehow cause families to stay together or reduce the divorce rate. This simply will not happen, and the costs of this experiment are too great. We cannot go back to the old ideas of the 1950’s and ‘60s by reinstating fault divorces” (Robbins.) He goes on to argue that we need to move forward with new or better ways to solve marital issues. Trying to make divorce harder for the sake of one parent financial status is not the most ideal solution.
Forcing people into a relationship that can be dangerous for both parties simply because you will not want them divorced will ruin society and could put those individuals in harm’s way. Our justice system is already viewed as unfair, ending no fault will just overload are already corrupt judicial system, just because you make divorce harder doesn’t mean spouses will give up on the whole idea of divorce. Most will just lie, cheat and steal whatever they possibly can to obtain this divorce. Who’s to say that the court systems would believe a claim of abuse to give permission to divorce? So with the fault system back in place we run the risk of keeping couples in abusive relationships because there is a chance the courts will not believe ones claim of spousal abuse solely on the reasoning not wanting the divorce rates to sky rocket. It’s not fair for a complaint to not be granted simply because one spouse refusing to get a job or the means to support them. In this case I feel they don’t deserve to be given full custody or any of the spousal property.
Another flaw in the reform of no fault divorce law is the detrimental damage it can put on children that are involved. Janet Johnson argues, until the change of New York’s divorce law from fault to fault “our laws gum up the courts and promote adversarial behavior, resulting in mudslinging that is injurious to children and high attorney fees,” (qtd. in Marks). The premonition that children from divorced homes will be less likely to finish school, get involved with the wrong crowds causing drug issues and violence. Research has shown that statistically kids from divorced homes are more inclined to be troubled children; however, the research does not show that it is a direct result of the divorce or that divorce was the cause for their actions. The divorce reform suggests that parents stay together for the sakes of their children, or that parents prove fault. Robbins believes that if we revert back to fault divorces, ‘the potential for domestic violence would increase” (Robbins). Forcing families to stay together would cause much more catastrophic damage then allowing the divorce and splitting a family. Wilcox implies in the evolution of divorce, the older institutional model of marriage, “parents were supposed to stick together for the sake of their children.
The view was that divorce could leave an indelible emotional scar on children, and would also harm their social and economic future. Yet under the new soul-mate model of marriage, divorce could be an opportunity for growth not only for adults but also but also for their offspring” (Wilcox). This idea was believed that divorce could protect the emotional welfare of children by allowing their parents to leave marriages which they were unhappy in. Statistics showed that before the no fault divorce reform, half of the American population felt parents should stay together if children are involved regardless if they get along, however, only now 20% hold this view. At the height of the divorce revolution during the 1970’s, many scholars and therapists argue “that children were resilient in the face of divorce; children would be happier if their parents were able to leave unhappy marriages” (qtd. in Wilcox). It is unhealthy for children to see their parents in situations that expose them to abusive behaviors and arguments. When children see these behaviors from adults they see them and learn that they are acceptable and start utilizing them in their own environments even when we are not watching. When a parent removes themselves from the harmful environment it also removes the exposure and pattern to be repeated in the future.
Children need security and stability and when these things are not present in a relationship between two people it can cause many developmental issues, not because parents were allowed to divorce so easily. The proposal to make divorce harder forcing families to stay married would be devastating to children, one possibility is that a father, who is denied divorce due to the fault grounds, could easily pack up and leave without obtaining a divorce and the mother would have no legal justification to pursue child support or any form of support. A noted family lawyer explains that, nothing has changed since the beginning of the no fault law “if one party wants a divorce, they will find a way to get it, whether it be by divorce or separation. There would be separation of abandonment and if this was to occur, the situation could be worse for children because there is no law in place that provides for alimony, child support, or property division without the filing of a complaint for divorce or separate maintenance” (Robbins). So the parties would remain married, but the reform for fault divorce law did not save their marriage. Walters maintains that “The latest reforms are being pursued in the interests of children. But critics of the rollback argue that children would be even worse off if parents revert to playing the blame game in court” (Walters). Douglas McNish insists “If you go back to having fault divorces, more conflict will be created in cases. It is the conflict that harms the children, in order to make a claim for divorce; people would have to say really awful things about the other party” (qtd. in Walters).
People say divorce devalues the sac rage of marriage in my humble opinion I believe that staying in a deceitful relationship is more devastating in the end than to part ways on good terms. “Perhaps if the hassles and stressors occurred at the beginning of wedlock instead of the end, people might enter into it more soberly, that is, with more caution and understanding that it is legal agreement not unlike that of business partnership. As it is now, the decision to marry is often accompanied by a proposal, then a wedding shower, then the traditional wedding ceremony, followed by the honeymoon. It’s all fun and romantic, but more importantly easy. What if the new procedure was in place? The whole spectacle of getting on one knee to propose would be replaced with an unglamorous service of process. Hardly sounds romantic but, perhaps that is exactly what marriage needs a reality slap in the face” (qtd. in Larson). Marriage has been under attack since the introduction of the no fault based divorce law in 1970. Conservative legislators want to make it tougher to file for divorce in order to help couples financially and more importately help children. Victor argues, “Divorces are not sought by people because no fault makes it easier. In fact, divorce is a very difficult remedy sought by one or both adults who have found that because of interpersonal relationship breakdowns or betrayals, abuse, etc., their marriage relationship disintergrated. Divorce is a remedy to that breakdown, not the cause” (Victor).
We argue that allowing divorce could put one party in financial jeopardy because they lost a bread winner in the process. What about the spouse who still wants the divorce, they would have to hire investigators and lawyers to dig up dirt to be granted permission to get the divorce. They would also have to air their dirty laundry in order to win a case, which could cause detrimental psychological damage to their children. Many will also argue that counseling is available to salvage marriage, this brings us back to the argument Richard Victor makes “Divorces are not sought by people because no fault makes it easier” (Victor). If a couple wants out of their relationship they will exhaust every option until giving what they want. Or worse they will abandon all responsibility to their marriage, regardless if children are involved you cannot prolong the inevitable.