The Pros And Cons Of No-Fault Divorce Laws

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The Origins of No-Fault Divorce:

In 1970, California changed the way people look at divorce and made it a lot easier to get out of a marriage by passing the second no-fault divorce law in the United States. In 1953, Oklahoma passed the countries first no-fault divorce laws doing away with the need to find fault in divorce. It took 17 years for the rest of the country to follow suit. Some would say that we have become a progressive country when it comes to our divorce laws.

Some sternly, disagree.

The Blame Game:

Before 1970 and the move toward no-fault divorce laws getting a divorce meant proving that one spouse had done something wrong or had acted in a way that caused the breakdown of the marriage. Someone had to be at “fault,” which meant that grounds for the divorce had to be established. Such grounds might include adultery, physical or mental abuse, abandonment, confinement or holding against one’s will, insanity and the inability to be intimate with your spouse.

Free to Leave:

No-fault laws took away the need to find fault. No-fault divorce law gives either party the freedom to sue for divorce with only the claim of “irreconcilable differences.” Born of these laws was the concept of unilateral divorce: either partner feeling the urge to end the marriage could do so and was free to leave.

Two Sides to Every Story:

Some believe that the high rate of divorce in the United States is a direct result of no-fault divorce laws.

The debate between Religious groups and politically liberal groups has become contentious and rampant with contradictory evidence meant to support the arguments of both groups.

The Big Question:

The question that needs to be considered by both groups is which laws, fault or no-fault will best benefit the needs of a husband, wife and the children involved in a divorce.

Current Status:

All states have gone to no-fault divorce with some states also allowing grounds for divorce as an option. Southern states such as Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and Georgia have the most relaxed divorce laws and have the highest divorce rates in the country.

A few states, Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona have passed laws that give couples the option to choose, before they marry, which laws they would want to apply to their divorce should the marriage end. They can choose between “covenant marriage” or the no-fault option. In covenant marriage, couples agree to pre-marital counseling and to limit the grounds and options should they decide to divorce.

Although statistics seem to point to an increase in divorce since the beginning of no-fault laws, it would seem that the laws are popular with the general public. In Louisiana, nearly 97% of couples are choosing to go the no-fault route.

Background:

No-fault laws are the result of divorce lawyers and Family Court Judges trying to change the way divorces played out in court. They were tired of dealing with feuding couples who were resorting to facts being distorted, lies being told and time being spent trying to figure out who had done what to who.

In their minds, the old fault system of divorce was a threat to the integrity of the Family Court System and changes needed to be made.

As early as the 1930s, a treatise on American Family Court Law had complained:

“In divorce litigation it is well known that parties often seek to evade statutory limitations and thus there is great danger of perjury, collusion and fraud. In many cases no defense is interposed, and often when the case is contested the content is not waged with vigor or good faith.”

The true pioneer of no-fault divorce is the state of California because of the Family Law Act of 1969. The act was signed by Governor Ronald Reagan and took effect on January 1, 1970. By 1983, every state but New York and North Dakota had passed their own forms of no-fault divorce laws.

Pros

 

 

  • States that adopted no-fault laws saw a decline in the rates of domestic violence.

 

  • These laws empower a man or woman in an abusive marriage and make it easier to leave.

 

  • Means less conflict during divorce, which means less emotional harm to children whose parents, are divorcing.

 

  • Helps reduce the heavy caseloads of family courts.

 

  • Shortens the length of time it takes to obtain a divorce, which, in turn, shortens the amount of time spent in a stressful situation.

     

    • Divorce settlements are based on need, ability to pay and contribution to the family finances, rather than on fault.

     

    Cons

     

     

    • Over 80% of no-fault divorces are unilateral. This means that one party to the divorce objects to the marriage ending and no-fault laws take away that parties control over whether or not they can save their marriage.

     

    • Has given more power to Family Court Judges in deciding issues such as custody, splitting marital assets and spousal support. When there is no one at fault, a judge’s decisions are based on his feelings and feelings are not always objective.

     

    • Takes away a father’s rights to his children because they have no defense against a wife who wants to leave the marriage. Courts favor mothers and under the no-fault system it is hard to prove a mother unfit to parent.

     

    • The idea that marriage is a covenant larger than the two people who make it has been lost. Marriage vows and the promise made to each other during those vows have lost their value. This is evident in the high divorce rate in the United States.

       

      • Lowers a dependent wife’s living standards because she no longer has grounds to argue in her defense. Her husband can choose to leave her and 75% of the time the courts will not enforce any spousal support. Since the mother gets custody more often than the father this also means a lower standard of living for the children.

         

        • Where once the Family Court Systems allegiance was with the institution of marriage, it is now with the institution of divorce. Family Courts used to put effort into protecting the sanctity of marriage. Now the main concern is to make divorce quick and easy and get it off the docket.

         

        Where It Stands

         

        Family Court Judge Randall Hekman said, "It is easier to divorce my wife of 26 years than to fire someone I hired one week ago. The person I hire has more legal clout than my wife of 26 years. That's wrong."

        If you look around, you will see daily evidence of the breakdown of the American family. Many believe this breakdown is due to no-fault divorce laws. They believe the value of marriage has lessened and because of this, spouses are no longer willing to invest as much energy into saving it.

        On the other hand, you have evidence like the 97% of married couples in Louisiana choosing to begin their marriages knowing they may one day have to deal with no-fault laws. Evidence that points to the fact that the majority of the couples have no problem with the no-fault laws.