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Ethics & Religion
Column #2.043
October 6, 2020
How To Cut America's Divorce Rate
By Mike McManus

No Fault Divorce allows one spouse to unilaterally divorce the other, though they jointly entered into marriage. Consequently, America's divorce rate is highest in the world - triple that of Britain or France and double that of Canada. Two-thirds of U.S. divorces are by couples who are not unhappier than couples whose marriages survive.

Four out of five divorces are opposed by one spouse. In the 1950's, if a person wanted a divorce, he or she would have to provide evidence that the partner was guilty of a major fault, - such as adultery, abuse or abandonment.

However, in 1969, California Gov. Ronald Reagan persuaded his Legislature to pass No Fault Divorce. It was designed to remove the acrimony of divorce proceedings by allowing one partner to charge that the marriage had "irreconcilable differences." No fault had to be proven. Virtually all states passed similar No Fault Divorce laws.

The results have been disastrous. The number of divorces had already nearly doubled in the turbulent 1960s from 390,000 to 636,000. However, No Fault Divorce swept the country in the 1970s, and divorces nearly doubled from 636,000 to 1,189,000 by 1979. President Reagan confessed that his advocacy of No Fault Divorce was his "greatest regret" in public life.

The number of divorces has dropped slightly in recent years, but remains above 1 million. Half of America's marriages have ended in divorce since the 1970s.

Both the 5th and 14th Amendments supposedly guarantee that "No person be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law."

However, in a divorce, both people lose property. Children lose the liberty of access to both parents, and one parent loses access to his children - other than two weekends a month. That is a loss of liberty.

Both parties lose years of life, as do their children. A divorced man will live ten years less than a married man. A woman will lose four years less. And their children, five years less.

Thus, in a divorce, all are losing life, liberty and property.

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote these prescient words in an 1817 opinion: "When any state legislature shall pass an act annulling marriage contracts, or allowing any party to annul without the consent of the other. It will be time enough to inquire whether such an act be unconstitutional."

Divorce in unjust to children. Michael Reagan wrote about the divorce of his father, Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman: "Divorce is where two adults take everything that matters to a child - the child's home, family, and sense of being loved and protected - and they smash it all up, live it in ruins on the floor, then walk out and leave the child to clean up the mess."

When children of divorce reach adulthood, almost all cohabit and only 60% marry. They are also more likely to divorce due to bad modeling.

I propose three reforms that would cut the divorce rate.

  1. More Time. New York requires a six-month delay before a divorce is granted. The result is that hot heads cool down, and marriages are saved. New York's divorce rate is only 2.7 divorces per 1,000 population - half that of Nevada's 4.5 rate or Wyoming's 4.1. If a British wife wants a divorce, but her husband is opposed, they must wait five years, and six years in France. Five or six years is a lot of time for couples to reconcile. And their divorce rate is one-third that of America. Time matters.
  2. Education. Prof. Bill Doherty proposed that any divorcing couple with children take a four-hour course called Second Chances that would outline the impact of divorce on children. Its goal: persuade couples to reconcile. His bill would have also required a year's delay before a divorce is granted. Sadly, the bill failed. Rev. Greg Griffin has proposed The Children's Hope for Family Life Act in Georgia to increase the mandatory delay for a divorce from 30 days at present to 11 months, and require the couple to take a course on the impact of divorce on kids.
  3. Live under same roof. Most states require divorcing couples to move apart. That only encourages him or her to start dating. In North Carolina Sen. Austin Allran introduced a bill that would require a two-year waiting period, and allow couples to remain under the same roof, fi desired to encourage reconciliation.

Millions of America's marriages could be saved. Every divorce is the destruction of a small civilization.

Copyright (c) 2020 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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