January 21, 2014
(Last of a 3-part series)
Answers for the Disintegration of Marriage –
By Mike McManus
Marriage in America is disintegrating. According to
Census in 2013 only 48% of people were married – a substantial plunge from 67.3%
A major reason for the decline of married couples is divorce. In 1960, only 2.8
million people were divorced. By 2013 that figure jumped nearly ten-fold to 25.3
America’s divorce rate is actually the highest of the civilized world – triple
that of Britain and France, for example. After 5 years of marriage, 23% of
Americans are divorced vs. only 8% of British or French.
Why? If a British woman wants a divorce, but her husband does not – they must
wait five years to divorce! Six years in France. Five or six years allows time
By contrast, 27 states have a ZERO waiting period, and three states require only
30-60 days. Why are these “Hot Head States” pushing couples to divorce?
An earlier column quoted Jennifer Rivera: “After being together 11.5 years, the
Family Court of Miami-Dade County was able to legally end it in 11 days. If we
had more time to wait it out, such as a legalized separation, our divorce would
not have happened. It was like a Drive-Thru Divorce. That’s how it felt. They
have a waiting period to get a marriage license. There should be a waiting
period to get a divorce.”
When the couple stood before the judge, they were holding hands and crying. That
night they had dinner together and spent the night together.
This divorce should never have happened.
It would not have occurred in Illinois or Pennsylvania which require couples to
wait two years if one spouse opposes the divorce. As a result those states have
nearly America’s lowest divorce rates. Clearly, a longer waiting period allows
hot heads to cool down.
Their divorce rates are almost half that of 13 Hot Head States with No waiting –
NV, WY, ID, TN, KY, AK, FL, AL, NM, MS, CO, AZ and OR.
According to Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin’s book, Divided Families, four
out of five divorces are opposed by one spouse. Yet in America, one spouse can
file for divorce and always get it. In the old days, one would have to prove
their spouse was at fault – due to adultery, abandonment or abuse. However, in
1969 California Gov. Ronald Reagan signed America’s first “No Fault Divorce”
law, allowing just one spouse to declare there were “irreconcilable
Most states passed similar No Fault Divorce laws in the 1970s, and the number of
divorces nearly doubled from 639,000 in 1969 to 1,189,000 in 1979.
In my book, How To Cut America’s Divorce Rate in Half, I argue No Fault Divorce
is unconstitutional. Both the 5th and 14th Amendments supposedly guarantee that
no person “be deprived of life, liberty or property without the due process of
law.” Yet how can there be “due process” if every divorce is granted?
Divorce deprives people of life. A divorced man will live 10 years less than a
married man; a divorced woman, four years less; and their children, 5 years
less. Divorced people and their children are also deprived of liberty. A typical
father can see his kids only two weekends a month. Certainly, husbands and wives
lose property when they divorce.
Yet there is no Constitutional protection for 80% of spouses handed an unwanted
divorce. Therefore, I helped design a bill introduced in Georgia called the
Children’s Hope for Family Life Act. It would increase the waiting period from
30 days to one year.
The bill would also require couples with kids to take a course on the impact of
divorce on children before a divorce is filed. Hopefully, that would persuade
many to repair their marriage. And during the year, the couple would be required
to take classes to improve their skills of conflict resolution. No state has
such educational requirements.
Greg Griffin, a pastor and counselor who got a divorce he did not want, has led
the battle for the bill, spending 17 months at the state legislature, meeting
scores of state senators and state legislators, plus the governor.
He has “positioned this as a children’s rights bill, asking legislators to view
the bill through the eyes of a child, and give them every opportunity to grow up
in an intact home.” He asks that they think of it as looking out for the safety
of children like mandatory bike helmets.
I dream that the Children’s Hope for Family Life Act passes and becomes a model
for every state.
*These figures are of all people aged 15 and up, who were married and living
together in 1960 and 2013.