With Justice for ALL (quote from the pledge of allegience U.S.A.)
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No-Fault Divorce: A Failed Policy We Should Abandon
By Scott D. Noble
Recently, a movement has emerged across the nation aimed at reforming
the no-fault divorce laws. Many states are beginning to reexamine their particular
no-fault divorce laws in the light of 25 years of no-strings-attached divorce.
There can be no argument that since no-fault divorce laws were enacted by most
states, many Americans have been eager to exercise their newfound freedom from
commitment. But with this freedom has come a myriad of problems that now plague
society. The traditional two-parent family has become endangered, and with this
development has come immeasurable harm to the nation's children.
A little more than a century ago, the U.S. Supreme Court referred
to the traditional two-parent family as "the sure foundation of all that
is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guaranty of that reverent
morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political
improvement" (Murphy v. Ramsey ). Somehow in the past century, these
words have been forgotten. Still, the surest path to providing children with
success in life is to ensure that they have two committed parents who have not
only pledged to be faithful to each other but also to provide their children
with the same assurance.
In 1960, the divorce rate was 9.2 per 1,000 married women. By
the early 1990s, the rate had more than doubled to 20.9. What a dramatic turn
in just 30 years! In 1995, an estimated 2,336,000 marriages were performed in
the United States. In the same year, 1,169,000 divorces were performed. It is
estimated that half of all new marriages will end in a divorce--with many of
those divorces involving people who have already been divorced at least once.
What detrimental consequences have emerged as a result of the
culture of divorce? The Family Research Council has compiled some disturbing
statistics: A divorced woman will typically experience a 30 percent drop in
income the first year after a divorce. This is a significant decline in family
income, which can easily cause harm to a family's continued ability to provide
adequately for its members.
Three out of four teen suicides are committed by children who
come from broken homes. Teenage suicides are such tragedies--life has barely
been explored by the time these children decide they want no more of it.
Children of divorce are 70 percent more likely to have been expelled
or suspended from school, and are twice as likely to drop out of school as those
from intact families are. Without a high school diploma, individuals will suffer
immensely in trying to provide a safe and successful life for themselves and
Of juveniles and young adults serving time in correctional facilities,
70 percent come from broken homes. This is remarkable when we think of the dramatic
increase in crime in the last thirty years and the parallel implementation of
no-fault divorce laws. Broken homes can and do cause drastic harm to the children
who are forced to grow up in them.
No-fault divorce laws have created a climate where a divorce can
take place without much resistance. Consider this situation: A couple has been
married for 10 years and has two small children. The husband decides that married
life is too stifling or that he has found a new love interest. Well, he doesn't
need a real reason for a divorce or even his wife's consent. The husband can
just file for a divorce and soon be granted it. The wife has no real recourse
in the matter, even if she adamantly opposes the intended divorce.
This situation is all too common today, and the effects of divorce
on the children can be devastating. Putting the legal concept of "fault"
back into divorce would require couples to consider seriously not only their
original marriage commitment to each other, but also the consequences of the
decision to seek a divorce.
Under a proposed "fault" law, a divorce would generally
be denied if only one spouse wanted it unless that spouse could prove desertion,
infidelity, physical or mental abuse, alcoholism, or other serious problems.
This would require couples to consider seriously the implications of their marriage
contract before getting married in the first place. Also, it would force couples
to try and work through their differences instead of having one spouse sneak
through the no-fault back door and disregard family commitments.
The time has come for states, including Minnesota, to reevaluate
their no-fault divorce laws. A divorce observer once remarked: "Seldom
in U.S. history have laws been enacted with higher hopes and poorer results
than the no-fault divorce statutes." If America is serious about protecting
our children and creating a better world for them, then we must earnestly consider
putting fault back into divorce. A two-parent family is the best remedy to our
Scott Noble is a field representative for the Minnesota Family Council.