• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • No Fault Divorce Harms Women and Children

    Late Thursday night, the New York State Assembly passed no-fault divorce legislation in a 113–19 vote after the Senate voted 32–29 to approve the bill two weeks ago. Governor David Paterson is expected to sign the bill into law. The bill allows a spouse to file for divorce unilaterally after swearing under oath that the marriage has broken down irreconcilably for six months. The other spouse gets no say in the matter.

    Movement of the legislation in New York is significant because the Empire State is the only one in the union that retains a fault standard in divorce law.

    Currently in New York, a judge can grant a divorce only if either spouse is found guilty of cruelty, abandonment or adultery or has been sent to prison for three years. For irreconcilable divorces, the couple must be legally separate for at least one year before a divorce can be granted. In this case, both sides must mutually consent that there are “irreconcilable differences” that led to the divorce. The reasoning behind this is simple: The law should not disadvantage the party to a contract who is neither at fault nor desirous of a breach.

    David Usher, president of the Center for Marriage Policy, and Michael McManus, founder and president of Marriage Savers, highlight the detrimental effects of no-fault divorce on American society since states began to pass it in the early 1970s: “No-fault divorce laws were a mistake that encouraged marital irresponsibility,” they write, “resulting in a 50-percent divorce rate, a 51-percent decline in marriages since 1970, a sixteenfold hike in cohabitation and an 800-percent increase in out-of-wedlock births.”

    In addition, Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Chuck Donovan underlines the harmful effects that increased divorce rates have on children in his WebMemo Marriage, Parentage, and the Constitution of the Family:

    Advocates of no-fault divorce assured policymakers that the impact on children would be minimal if not beneficial … but children of divorce disproportionately suffer from such maladies as depression, compromised health, childhood sexual abuse, arrests, and addiction.

    The proposed bill in New York is even uniting an unusual mix of organizations concerned about its potential harms. The National Organization for Women has united with the state Catholic conference in an attempt to prevent New York from becoming the last state to adopt a no-fault standard. Their reasoning: Such policy harms women, children, and society at large. They argue that the bill would allow judges to ignore cruelty that occurs in some marriages and also permit husbands to hide assets from the court, leaving divorced women and children financially unstable.

    Rather than blindly follow the totem of a no-fault divorce regime, especially where children are present in the marriage, New York legislators might have taken the lead in looking for more ways to strengthen marriage and deter divorce. The implications of no-fault divorce for society—increases in marital irresponsibility, increased risks for children’s health, and financial instability—make the case for common-sense reforms well worth a fresh hearing.

    Michelle Barreto is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    12 Responses to No Fault Divorce Harms Women and Children

    1. James Hart, Cary, NC says:

      Congratulations New York! Nobody should be required to stay in a bad marriage just because their spouse doesn't want a divorce.

      I would imagine that there are a number of other ways to get around the old law – move to any other state bordering NY and establish residency comes to mind.

      As a child of divorce, and now a divorce lawyer, I can honestly say that we were better off because my parents divorced. The scars will always be there, but I can't imagine what life would have been like to grow up in a household with constant fighting and yelling between my parents.

      Jim Hart

    2. Pingback: No Fault Divorce Harms Women and Children – Heritage.org (blog) | The Divorced Parents

    3. Pingback: No Fault Divorce Harms Women and Children – Heritage.org (blog) | The Divorced Parents

    4. Pingback: No-Fault Divorce Likely Coming to New York – Wall Street Journal (blog) | The Divorced Parents

    5. Pingback: No-Fault Divorce Likely Coming to New York – Wall Street Journal (blog)Grand Rapids Law Firm | Grand Rapids Law Firm

    6. Billie says:

      This is to appease those whose customary belief it is to beat their wives out of discipline for whatever reason man has on the books that day. Isn't that called Shiria law?

    7. Susan Crawford, New says:

      Now, children will grow up in household where the innocent spouse dies of disease because they cannot afford health insurance. Unilateral divorce gives all the power and advantage to the cheating abusive spouse and allows the innocent, faithful spouse to be bushwacked.

    8. Susan D, North Count says:

      You people are UNBELIEVABLE! I have been married to an abuser for 22 years. For the last few years, I have lived apart from him. He wouldn't sign an agreement for legal separation, and I cannot afford to move out of state. Now that I can afford to divorce him, the law says that I MUST accuse him of some fault.

      You believe the divorce rate will rise. Of course it will! Because people like me who have not lived with their spouse for several years will finally be able to get out of a bad marriage. And it seems you are saying that only the "cheating spouse" will be the one to file divorce under the new law. That is untrue. I never cheated on my husband, and have not been in a relationship since I was able to escape the marriage, however he has had several extra-marital affairs, during and after our split.

      Back to one of my original statements… Under current law, I must accuse him (my spouse) of things of fault. However, those "things of fault" must have happened within the last 5 years. Now, since I was able to get away from him, but could not at the time afford to divorce him, the statute of limitations of what he can be accused has expired. Does this mean we will go back to wedded bliss? HELL NO! Does this mean that other people in my situation will now (when the new law becomes effective) start divorce proceedings, thus causing the divorce rate to skyrocket in NY State? YES! But this will only last a short time. The divorce rate will eventually level out to equal or rival other states. My guess is, within 3 years it will do so.

      And, I predict less homicide by a spouse, less suicide, and happier children who no longer have to be witness to the unbearable situations their parents might be in. Such as the kids who witness "dad" beating the hell out of "mom". Or the screaming and object throwing "mom" does at "dad". More likely, you will have more children growing up RESPECTING their parents, RESPECTING how others should be treated, and thus having those children not repeat the patterns of their abusive parent.

      I could go on for hours about how WRONGLY ONE-SIDED it is to think that the law will be bad for ALL New Yorkers, but what is the point? So many "marriage advocate groups" have it in their minds that it is a "bad" law, so that is how they will always see it, regardless of how much better off a lot of people will be. How about instead of "marriage advocacy" they practice being humane? After all, is it humane to let a person (and their children) suffer in an abusive marriage, just for the sake of staying married?

    9. Pingback: Does No-Fault Divorce Harm Women and Children Disproportionately? – Zelda Lily, Feminism in a Bra

    10. BK says:

      Not only is the article misguided, but it is factually wrong. As recent research has shown (Betsy Stevenson at Wharton School at Univ. of Penn), permitting no-fault had almost NO IMPACT on the divorce rate in the US. It did shoot up between 1965 and 1976 (almost double) but here's the one fact that destroys the above article: The divorce rate increased in states and adopted no-fault and those that did not.

      Whatever factors caused divorce to spike, it was not simply adopting no fault rules.

      And, in states that DID adopt no-fault, domestic violence rates dropped 30 percent. (No surprise there).

      Fixed ideological responses to facts often result in articles like the one above. Mildly interesting writing, but very, very inaccurate.

    11. Divorce Coach says:

      I am constantly amazed at the lack of correct information being published about the passage of UNI LATERAL NO FAULT DIVORCE IN NY.

      As the President of a National Not for Profit on contested divorces for 15 years with membership over 4,000, I can give you thousands of cases where divorce grounds, maintaining a valid reason to divorce was helpful to the litigants in the process.

      Lets' begin by looking at the bill…it permits 1 SPOUSE not both, 1 -to get divorced when he/she swears their have been irreparable harm for at least the last 6 months.

      WHERE IS THE OTHER SPOUSE IN THIS EQUATION? Was this not a 2 party marriage?

      So, I see if 1 spouse just wants to get divorced – as the notable Senator who was recently featured in the Press WHO SIGNED THE BILL- for having an affair with his staffer, WHO SAID AS SOON AS THE INK IS DRY I WILL BE FILING FOR DIVORCE, they will "swear" and that's it. As an aside – shouldn't he be held accountable for doig self help?

      So, Mrs. SENATOR NELSON CASTRO, will now lose her health benefits, pension rights, inheritance rights, have to fight over custody, child support and BECAUSE HE IS A SENATOR PROBABLY HAVE TO FIGHT THE OLD BOYS CLUB……but of course, NYS state and the commenter's here, Attorney James Hart, Susan North and BK…don't seem to have problem with that.

      Susan North – you had grounds – you had them when you moved, you have them now – you just had very bad advice! You could have gotten divorced – you just thought you could not.

      What is never mentioned is that the "other states" at least 5 of them, Including California currently have bills in their legislature to bring fault BACK because they see what a disaster it was to the non-breaching party!

      I have men in my group whose wives just wanted out – no abuse, the just felt that the men "had not grown with them." They are still attractive, mid 40's have their kids, their house and feel they can still "find another man."

      What happens? They move for custody in the divorce..now the husband who did no wrong – ends us losing his daily contact with his kids, pays the breaching party money and sees his kids living with his x, her boyfriends living large while he is in a basement apartment.

      Or the women whose husbands, like the Senator, have affairs and are tired of their wives and want out. They hit that Mid life and suddenly the cute office thing things he's wonderful….wife not working, home with kids…AND he fights for custody.

      The divorce system is a mess AND NOT because of the grounds..that was the only thing that was not a problem and our lovely people in Albany just did a huge disservice to their constituents.

      And the ironic part…

      If the Governor makes this law, History will remember this Governor, who with full knowledge of the discrimination that those with disabilities face, became the person responsible for aiding NYS to further harm those with disabilities.

      Once a spouse is divorced they NO LONGER, may be covered under their x- spouse's health insurance.

      Divorce filings will fill NYS & the disabled, those with diseases & pre-existing conditions, will have no health care coverage!

      Those who know that they need their health care & thus have chosen to stay married so that they would have health coverage to continue to LIVE, will now have no choice in their lives due to this bill.The Governor will assure these people that their lives are more difficult or worse, their life span shortened SOLELY because NYS empowered the other spouse to divorce for no legitimate reason.How ironic that a Governor, with a disability, ignores the thousands of NY constituents, who may only have health care because of their marriage.

    12. Paul says:

      I am married to a woman who shortly after the marriage, she started to sleep out, party 7 days a week refuses to be a mother and/or wife. When i went to the lawyer for an annualment he told me it would be costly and lenghtly. I move for a no-contest that she agreed to and then decided not to. Financially I take care of everything from schooling to cooking while she parties and spend her weekly check ($1800.00) on clothes, shoes and partying. I cant wait for the Gov to sign this into law. It is easy to say women will suffer but what about the true daddies who dont have the financial resource to go on for 2+ years for a divorce who are stuck with the wives who dont want to be married.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.