How To Reform No Fault Divorce
(Third of three parts)
by Mike McManus
After two weeks and dozens of calls, the top person in the American Bar
Association finally talked to me about No Fault Divorce. What Anita Ventrelli,
Chair of the ABA's Family Law Section, said was shocking.
I asked her if divorce is a law suit. She said it was, which will surprise many
spouses. I then asked whether there was any defense one spouse could give in
court against their partner's claim that the marriage had "irreconcilable
"I don't know of one," she replied.
"What if the other spouse says the marriage IS reconcilable?"
"The court holds that as long as one party to the marriage does not want to be
married, you do have irreconcilable differences. Both people do not have to
I responded, "So the spouse trying to save the marriage always loses?"
"I would not agree that in having to be divorced, someone who does not want to
be divorced - is losing, as long as they are treated fairly," Ventrelli
That's nonsense. First, as she later acknowledged, "In every lawsuit some are
winning and some are losing." Second, if the ABA's top divorce lawyer can't
think of any defense, the law is corrupt, utterly biased, and rigged to destroy
America's most important institution, the family. Who benefits? Only the
In any other law suit, the sued person always can get their day in court and can
present evidence arguing the case. The judge hears both sides and makes a
decision based on which person's evidence is most compelling.
Not in Family Law Court. The person suing for divorce ALWAYS wins.
I asked Ventrelli, "What about the 5th and 14th Amendments guaranteeing that "no
person be deprived of life, liberty or property without the due process of
She replied that if No Fault were unconstitutional, "We would not have it any
more. No Fault is not an unconstitutional taking of life, liberty or property."
That's an Alice in Wonderland response. The law is not constitutional because it
exists, but because it has not been successfully challenged. How is it
constitutional for the opponent of a No Fault divorce to ALWAYS lose? And lots
of life, liberty and property are taken in a divorce.
Consider the case of "Dr. Peter Hopkins," 53, who didn't want a divorce, but was
so determined to remain in the lives of his kids that he spent $250,000 in
attorney's fees. To do that he had to liquidate his retirement, taking a 50%
cut (due to taxes), making his real cost $500,000. The result is he sees the
kids for 48 hours every other weekend, one weekday per week, alternate holidays
and four weeks in the summer.
The physician asserts, "No Fault Law is unconscionable. It is un-American. How
can the law deny the accused the right to defense?"
What's needed is to reform No Fault Divorce. Peter Hopkins should have to agree
to his wife's desire to divorce.
He says, "If there is marital conflict the couple should demonstrate they've
made an effort to resolve it. When that has occurred, and both agree to divorce,
it should be granted. Without mutual consent, there needs to be a clear and
objective fault by a high evidentiary standard such as recalcitrant infidelity
or unrelenting acts of violence. The law's bias should favor maintenance of the
marriage and the intact family - not its destruction.
"As a physician I have seen there's tremendous hope in the most hopeless
situations. After someone is crushed by severe trauma or disease, I've seen them
recover and adapt in remarkable ways," Hopkins said.
"In America we have no system for treating the marriage as we doctor patients.
The law presumes the marriage is dead on arrival. A mere assertion by one spouse
that the marriage is dead is sufficient to abandon any hope of treating it. If
we applied this logic to the practice of medicine we would assume that all
patients with serious disorders are hopeless and withdraw all treatment from
My new book, How To Cut America's Divorce Rate in Half, proposes a
"Modified No Fault Law" in which both parents of young children would have to
agree to the divorce, if major fault is not proven. Childless couples and those
with adult children could still get a No Fault Divorce. The proposed change is
modest but it could cut the divorce rate in half.
"By giving the spouse who wants to save the marriage an equal voice with an
unhappy mate, many marriages could be restored, perhaps saving most of them,"
asserts Evansville, IN Catholic Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger.
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