Public Discourse 7 May 2013
No-fault divorce is destroying women, children, and men. More precisely, divorce destroys marriage, and the destruction of marriage harms every party involved. The legality of no-fault divorce just makes it infinitely easier to hurt people. There are no two ways about it. No one comes out of a divorce a happier and more whole person.
Particularly offensive no-fault divorces are those where one spouse is protesting. In these cases, one spouse is literally abandoning the other (and frequently the children as well), despite having made public vows and having signed a contract before civil and religious officials stating their lifelong commitment to his or her spouse.
In this country you can come home from work and tell your spouse the marriage is over and he or she can do nothing but cry, and fight for the best financial payout possible. Try doing that with Verizon. Or while under contract to buy a home. Or with your gym membership. You’ll get laughed at.
Eighty percent of divorces are unilateral. The legal sanctioning of human abandonment must end.
The Feminist Case against No-Fault Divorce
It’s true that we can thank women for no-fault divorce laws. They fought hard in the 1960s and 1970s for the right to be freed from that terrible, hierarchical construct that is marriage. In 1970, California was the first state to fall, triggering a nationwide no-fault domino wave. Feminists like Betty Friedan, who once called marriage a “comfortable concentration camp” from which women should be freed, were jubilant. And they got their wish. Each state that subsequently enacted no-fault divorce laws saw immediate spikes in divorce rates. Surprise!
Yet twenty-seven years later, even Friedan admitted, “I think we made a mistake with no fault divorce,” recognizing that no-fault divorce had led to “unintended consequences” that adversely affected women. That same year, the president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, founded by Friedan, made the case against no-fault divorce in the pages of the New York Times. New York was the last state where it had not been legalized. New York fell four years later, making our country a fully no-fault nation.
The reason for feminists’ about-face on no-fault divorce has largely to do with the reality that no-fault divorce, especially unilateral no-fault divorce, has a disproportionately negative economic impact on women.
The Pro-Father Case against No-Fault Divorce
The rights of fathers are a frequently overlooked part of divorce. This is unfortunate because currently, divorce (especially unilateral no-fault divorce) is largely used against men. In Stevenson’s words, “On balance, unilateral divorce favors those who most want out of the marriage, which more often than not are women.” Women are more likely to be worse off economically as a result of divorce. But men are more likely to be the disadvantaged party protesting the divorce.
A full two-thirds of divorces are initiated by wives. Among college-educated couples, 90 percent of divorces are initiated by women. In child custody cases, mothers are awarded custody 70 percent of the time. Joint custody is granted 20 percent of the time. In 40 percent of all child custody cases, the father is completely barred from seeing his children. This certainly includes cases where the father has been abusive and there are good reasons to keep him away. But the courts are heavily biased toward women in custody battles.
No man should ever be deprived of the right to see his children solely because the woman wants to leave and the man has done nothing wrong. And no man should have to support a woman who abandons him when he is not at fault. It’s a disgrace to feminism and equal rights to demand anything otherwise.
The Pro-Child Case against No-Fault Divorce
The pro-child case against no-fault divorce can be summed up in two sentences, because really we all know that divorce wreaks havoc on the lives of children. Divorce makes children worse off emotionally and economically, in addition to raising the odds that children from broken homes will break up their own homes as adults (and fall into crime, drugs, become a teen mom, get sick, pick up smoking, have a stroke…and die young). By making it easier to break up a home, no-fault divorce only makes it more likely that parents will commit this injustice against their children.
Above all, divorce strips children of their human right to a mother and a father bound in a permanent bond to each other and to them.