| November 4,
Column # 1,471
A New Agenda For Conservatives
By Mike McManus
Conservatives are exultant by this week's victories for governors in
Virginia and New Jersey. With good reason. Their core supporters turned out,
and they attracted a substantial majority of independents, most of whom had
voted for Obama.
Maine voters also defeated a gay marriage law. In all 31 states where
same-sex marriage has been put to a public vote, people supported traditional
However, in 2010 conservatives must be far more creative to win major
victories in Congress and in state capitals. If Obama's Health Plan passes
Congress, as is likely, Democrats will claim a victory that will impress many
What's needed is a fresh political idea to galvanize conservatives. For
example, states could take a step that could cut divorce rates in half, and
reduce federal and state spending on broken families by $75 billion a year.
There will be an acute need for such an initiative in 2010 when
unemployment rates are expected to remain near 10 percent. That will depress
federal and state revenues. Federal Stimulus funds which helped this year - will
evaporate next year.
How can divorce rates be cut in half?
First, answer this question. Why are America's divorce rates two to
seven times those of Canada and European countries?
As Andrew Cherlin documents in his insightful book, "The
Marriage-Go-Round," after five years 23 percent of American couples separate or
divorce. Compare that with the 10-12 percent of couples in Canada, Austria,
Finland, West Germany and Sweden; 8 percent of the French or British; and only
3-5 percent of Italians, Belgians and Spanish.
Cherlin writes, "In no other country is the waiting period for a No-Fault
Divorce so short," as in America. Germans have to live separately for three
years if one spouse does not want the divorce, five years in Britain and six in
Why? Such laws give couples time to reconcile. Clearly, it works.
By contrast, there is NO minimum time of separation in 33 states, such as
Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Idaho and Wyoming, according to John
Crouch of Americans for Divorce Reform.
These states have Hot Head Laws that favor the angry spouse, those who
want a divorce IMMEDIATELY. Why shouldn't state laws encourage reconciliation?
Every study shows permanent marriages benefit men, women and especially
For example, a married woman will live four years longer than the
divorced, and a married man, ten years longer! Children of divorce live four
Hot Head States have divorce rates that are double those of Maryland,
Illinois and Pennsylvania where couples must live apart two years, if a No-Fault
Divorce is contested.
Few seem to realize that in four out of five divorces, one spouse opposes
divorce, according to an earlier book by Cherlin, "Divided Families,"
co-authored with Frank Furstenberg
Therefore, my first suggestion to cut divorce rates in half is for
states to look at my home state of Maryland for a model law in which a spouse
seeking a No-Fault Divorce must live separately for a year, and two years, if
the divorce is contested.
Alternatively, states could reform No-Fault Divorce in cases that
involve minor children, to require both the mother and father to agree in
writing to any divorce, unless one is proven guilty of a fault, such as adultery
or physical abuse. Why should a contract that was willingly entered into by two
people, be terminated by one spouse acting unilaterally?
Unilateral Divorce should be prohibited when couples have young children
who need both their mother and father. I wrote a recent book proposing this
reform, "How to Cut America's Divorce Rate in Half: A Strategy Every State
Evansville, IN Catholic Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger wrote an
endorsement, "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
Divorce Attorney John Crouch told me, "A large proportion of divorces
would be avoided altogether, and most of the rest would be settled out of court.
Divorces would be fairer to both parties with less legal fees. I believe it
could cut divorce rates by as much as 50 percent. Changing the rules about
ending a divorce would prevent a lot of marriages from breaking down in the
first place. They would not only influence the decision to divorce, but the
behavior and choices that lead to divorce."
Affiliates of Focus on the Family invited me to address state
legislators in Florida Wisconsin, as did the Family Rights Coalition of
Michigan. This weekend I address state legislators from many states at a
Let's cut America's divorce rate in half!
30+ Years / 1700+ Columns
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Cohabitation: A Growing Problem - Part I
Texting While Driving - A Killer
Why Have "Religious Nones" Tripled?
Norma McCorvey Roe of Roe v. Wade
The Worst Valentine: Cohabitation
Pornography: A Public Health Hazard
Christianity Gives Women Equal Opportunity
Sextortion Kills Teens
Assisted Suicide Is Growing
same sex marriage,
abortion and infanticide,