February 6, 2005

ONE BITE AT THE APPLE:

More states stir against ease of 'no fault' divorce: Dissolving troubled marriages is becoming a prominent topic of public discussion and political activity. (Brad Knickerbocker, 2/01/05, CS Monitor)

How - or even whether - to dissolve troubled marriages is becoming a prominent topic of public discussion and political activity.

It's part of the generally conservative marriage movement which includes the option in several states (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Arizona) to choose more restrictive "covenant marriages" and resists same-sex marriages. But the issue crosses ideological and political lines - liberals and conservatives alike worry about the high rates of divorce in this country - and in many ways it comes down to government's role in this most personal of decisions.

In addition, there are a growing number of laws that aren't directly related to the availability of divorce but could affect the instances and impact of failed marriages. Some provide "marriage skills" education in public schools as a way of avoiding divorce; others mandate "custody counseling" for divorce cases involving children.

"Half the states now have provisions for it or require it," says John Crouch, executive director of Americans for Divorce Reform, a small, all-volunteer group in Arlington, Va.


One obvious step is to vastly increase the governmental benefits for marriage and child-bearing, but only for first marriages and to recoup those benefits if the marriage is dissolved. Then as we shape inferior institutions to marriage for homosexuals it should be fairly easy to come up with something similar for folks who couldn't make marriage work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 6, 2005 6:46 AM
Comments

Whoa. If you are in favour of re-instituting fault in family law, how can you justify recouping benefits from someone whose separation or divorce wasn't their fault? And why would you punish the obviously innocent children of a successful second marriage? People do learn and change

Posted by: Peter B at February 6, 2005 8:46 AM

How would you handle situations where the marriage is the first for one partner, but the second or third for the other?

Posted by: Brandon at February 6, 2005 8:56 AM

Brandon:

It wouldn't be.

Posted by: oj at February 6, 2005 9:38 AM

Peter:

Yes, let them learn in their marriage instead of bailing.

Posted by: oj at February 6, 2005 9:40 AM

Orrin:

Fine for the bailor, but I'm talking about the bailees. I think you are unconsciously adopting a very modern view if you think divorces occur because of a "couple" problem or that decisions to separate are usually mutual or joint. Just because the law is no-fault doesn't mean peoples' lives are. You can't talk about matrimonial offences without facing the fact that they have victims.

Posted by: Peter B at February 6, 2005 10:06 AM

Peter:

They get over them if they stay together.

Posted by: oj at February 6, 2005 10:25 PM

Get government out of the marriage business entirely, then divorce and all its accompanying issues become matters for faith-based institutions and arbitrators. That worked for millenia. End the marriage subsidies in the tax code and elsewhere.

If two guys want to marry each other and go to the Metropolitan Community Church or the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue to have a ceremony, it just ain't my business so long as it's not on my dime. If two Catholics want to get married in accordance with Church doctrine, don't come crying to me when they find they have 'irreconcilable differences' and want out. They made their bed now they can lie in it. If a Mormon wants to 'live in the doctrine' and have a dozen wives, if he can support them, it's OK by me. It's called living in a free country.

Judaism has an elaborate jurisprudence concerning divorce and all its accompanying issues. It should certainly not be the law of the land, but if two Jewish people, married in accordance with halacha want it to apply, the State has no interest in a different outcome.

The only exception would be where the application of religious law gives a result which shocks the conscience. An example of this is from the Koran, Mohammed married a 6 year old, Ayesha, and apparently consummated the marriage with her at the time.


Posted by: Bart at February 7, 2005 8:12 AM

Bart:

The state has an obvious interest in the family and should subsidize stable, nuclear ones.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 9:16 AM

The state has an interest that children not become public charges or menaces to society when they are older. Whether that requires a traditional family structure is something I am unqualified to state.

However, it is certainly clear that a traditional nuclear family is not a panacea for the ills of childhood, that other things are necessary. Sicilian and Jewish crime families only rarely have divorces. And since about half of marriages end in divorce today, it is clear that millions and millions of Americans who were raised in broken homes lead decent and productive lives.

Posted by: Bart at February 7, 2005 11:58 AM

No. It has an interest in there being children and in their being raised well, which requires marriage. Children of divorce are less decent and productive than they would be had their parents stayed together.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 12:46 PM
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