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Resources from Marriage Savers: Columns

A New Year's Resolution: Cut America's Divorce Rate In Half

December 31, 2008
Column #1,427
(first of three parts)
Copyright © 2008 Michael J. McManus

I'd like to propose a New Year's resolution that could preserve a half million marriages a year now ending in divorce by cutting America's divorce rate in half.

The biggest winners of such an achievement would be 500,000 kids who would not experience their parents divorce.  Children are the innocent victims who deserve a bright future.

I wrote a 101 page book this year outlining how such a reform could occur, How To Cut America's Divorce Rate in Half: A Strategy Every State Should Adopt.  I suggest that state legislators and governors be asked this question:

"Though a divorce is opposed in four out of five cases by one spouse, it is always granted. Should couples with children be required to obtain written mutual consent for the dissolution of their marriage if there are no allegations of major fault such as proven adultery or physical abuse?"

In 48 states No Fault Divorce Law no longer requires proof of major fault to get a divorce. One spouse simply claims the marriage has "irreconcilable differences," and divorce is always granted. Yet in 80 percent of the cases, their spouse says the marriage is reconcilable, according to Andrew Cherlin and Frank Furstenburg in their book, Divided Families.

The key moral question, which every pastor, teacher, social worker, lawyer and parent must answer is this: should a marriage, entered into willingly by two people, be dissolved unilaterally by one unhappy parent - or should both parents have an equal voice in the decision?

To put it differently, shouldn't the parent most committed to the marriage and to the children have an equal voice in a decision that will change their lives forever?

Billy Miller came home for lunch one day to discover that his wife was gone along with most of the furniture and their teenage daughter and son. It was a shock that made him feel "total devastation."

If he had had a voice on the divorce, he would have said no.  It shattered their children, two of whom have had babies out-of-wedlock and a third is divorced. Without a model of how a husband and wife make a marriage work, children of divorce find it difficult to bond with someone of the opposite sex.

Did his ex-wife create a happier life?  No. Within four years she married a high school boyfriend who deserted his wife to marry her. He kicked her out after just four months.  She married a third time, but it lasted only 8 months. Billy remains her friend, and he prays for her return.

Billy is now a divorce reformer.  His local newspaper published his recent letter with questions that deserve answers from the legal profession, clergy and state legislators:

1.  "Is marriage a legally binding agreement between two citizens?  If it is not, why should it be registered with the legal system, the local courts and the state?

2.  "If it takes two people in agreement to initiate a legally binding contract, and two people in agreement to end a legally binding contract," why can one spouse terminate a marriage?

3.  "The person breaching a (typical) contract is generally the one penalized. How is it fair in divorce to punish the one who is not breaching the contract and, at the same time, reward the one who is?  The one objecting to the granting of the divorce is deprived of all rights as the divorce is granted.

"Saddam Hussein received more justice than do American citizens who want to keep their marriage and family intact," Billy Miller wrote.

No Fault Divorce is also unconstitutional. The 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution guarantee that "No person be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law."

Where is "due process" if the divorce is always granted?

Miller writes, "Due process is: hearing what you did wrong (accusations), with proof; offering a defense against those accusations; hearing the judge's decision based on the evidence presented, and the right to appeal that decision."

You can take a personal responsibility to help reform No Fault Divorce.  How?

1.  Call or write your state representative or state senator, asking them to reform the law.

2.  Ask your pastor to not only support this change, but to seek the backing of other clergy in the community, to ask state legislators for divorce reform.

3.  Ask your local legal community, the Bar Association, to support divorce reform.

In short, will you declare a New Year's Resolution to help reform No Fault Divorce with Mutual Consent Divorce in cases involving minor children?