September 18, 2004
Mutual Consent Divorce Reform
Last weekend every American thought deeply
about the 3,000 Americans who
lost their lives on 9/11/01. The terrorism destroyed 3,000 families.
Yet since that date, there have been 3 million divorces
that shattered the lives of 3 million children. That calamity was
1,000 times worse yet no one thinks about it,
except family members in 3 million demolished civilizations.
The rest of us must care, and take steps to spare
The impact is greatest on the innocent, the children. Children of divorce are twice as
likely to drop out of school as those from intact homes, three times as apt
to have a baby out of wedlock, five-fold more likely to be in poverty and 12
times more apt to be
"Contrary to what we have long thought, the major
impact of divorce does not occur
during childhood or adolescence. Rather, it rises in adulthood as
serious romantic relationships move center stage. When it comes time to
choose a life mate and build a new family, the effects of divorce
crescendo," wrote Judith Wallerstein after following 100 children of
divorce for 25 years after parental divorce, in her landmark book, "The
Unexpected Legacy of Divorce."
Only 60 of the100, now aged 27-43, had ever married vs.
84 percent of those from intact families. And 25 of the 60 had already
divorced, leaving only a third who built
What is achingly needed is to reform No-Fault Divorce. It could save hundreds of
thousands of marriages now terminated too hastily.
Ironically, No-Fault was once seen as a reform.
"In New York and New England for most of the 20th
Century, adultery was the only
grounds for divorce. People who wanted divorce did negotiate the terms of
their divorce and agree by mutual consent. But they'd have to fake pictures
of adultery and lie in court," says John Crouch of Americans for Divorce
No-Fault removed lies by allowing a spouse to
exit unilaterally without proving the other guilty of a major fault, such as
adultery, abandonment or abuse.
1. A 1998 study reports No-Fault Laws caused a 17
percent increase in divorce rates.
2. Divorced women and their
children suffered economically. Prior to No-Fault, wives were awarded
60 percent or more of the property. If a man wanted a divorce, he's have to
bargain with his wife, making economic concessions to obtain her consent. Assets are
now divided equally, and since women often dropped out of the work force to
raise children, they are less able to support themselves.
3. "The system rewards those who lie, cheat and steal
and use kids as a weapon to
alienate the other person," says Crouch. "No fault denies you the right to
be married in the sense that people have understood marriage for centuries.
It makes it an arrangement
that is for the time being. Marriage has historically been a contract in
which people "forsake all others" giving each a reason to invest their
energies to make the marriage work for both of you and the children. Any
complicated high investment human endeavor, such as building a skyscraper,
requires an enforceable contract. If you allow one person to abrogate the
contract, you can't rely on it."
4. The Constitution's guarantee of "due process"
is lost. "ALL legal rights in a divorce
are extended to the divorcer, because the one who wants to save the marriage
loses EVERY TIME," complains Billy Miller of Louisiana.
That may sound un-American, but it is very American. No other nation allows unilateral divorce, which is why the United States
has the world's highest divorce rate.
What's needed is "Mutual Consent Divorce" to replace
No-Fault. What was entered into by two people should not be exited unless
both parties agree.
Of course, divorce could be granted if one person was
guilty of adultery, physical abuse, etc. However, two-thirds of divorces do
not even involve major conflict.
One person is unhappy and wants out. If that person had
to negotiate with a spouse to exit the marriage, there would be fewer
divorces and fewer wounded children. The spouse who wants to save the
marriage would have leverage. And divorces would be fairer to all parties.
Mutual Consent Divorce is opposed by divorce attorneys
who dominate Judiciary
Committees in Legislatures. However, this is a political season. State legislators want your vote. Ask if they support Mutual Consent
A Family Policy Council affiliated with Focus on the
Family in one major state has
persuaded the governor and legislative leaders to back Mutual Consent.
Yet not one religious denomination has called for this
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