Marriage

Why It Could Get a Lot Harder to Get Divorced in Some States

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Moving Picture World/Wikimedia

As the great same-sex marriage debate bumbles on, a smaller, quieter marriage battle is taking place in state legislatures. Last week, The Washington Post reported on moves by socially conservative politicians around the country to make it harder for couples to get divorced.

Since 2011, more than a dozen states have considered bills that would limit allowable reasons for divorce and/or draw out divorce proceedings (via longer waiting periods and mandated counseling).

Wait, you need a reason to get divorced? Didn't we do away with that in the '70s? 

Yes, mostly: "No-fault" divorce laws—which permit couples to divorce without proof of adultery, abandonment, etc.—began to proliferate after California passed the first one in 1969 (signed by the Gipper himself). By 1980, 45 other states had joined California and by 1985, New York was the only outlier, the Post reports.

Despite the fact that it's driven up the divorce rate, no-fault divorce is generally looked at as a pretty positive development in America. It frees people from being trapped in miserable marriages, for one. And studies have suggested it has helped cut down on domestic abuse and spousal murder.

Returning to the old ways might force more people to stay unhappily married, but that's a pretty bizarre goal. Putting alleged "social good" above individual freedom and flourishing rarely seems to lead to either.

Leave it to legislators, however, to think they know better about your love life than you do. Kansas and Oklahoma are currently considering an end to no-fault divorce for parents or possibly everybody. North Carolina wants to institute a two-year waiting period. 

At Bloomberg ViewMegan McArdle uses European labor markets to explain why such laws could totally backfire.

After World War II, many left-wing European governments… passed laws making it very, very difficult to fire workers. In Italy, for example, a judge could reverse a layoff decision, not because you'd fired the worker unjustly, but because the judge didn't think you needed to cut staff. Hurrah! Finally, workers were protected from the dark specter of unemployment!

Well, not quite. Workers were thrilled; employers were terrified. Now hiring a worker meant you were stuck with them unless they committed some absolutely flagrant offense—like, say, emptying the till and running out the door.

That's a hell of a commitment to make to someone you barely know. So employers didn't want to hire scary strangers; they wanted to hire close friends and family. Or, better yet, no one at all. Youth unemployment in many of these nations was staggering. The insiders had a great deal, but people without jobs found themselves consigned to a series of temporary, not-very-well-paid contracts. Or the dole.

The lessons? When you make contracts harder to exit, you also make it less likely people will want to enter into them. And promoting social arrangements via government force rarely works out the way social planners want it to. 

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  1. How about instead we don’t have government contracts for marriage and people can choose their own marriage contract and what rules apply.

    By getting a government granted marriage license you are giving the government direct control of your life, including the ability to change the contract whenever the government feels like it.

    1. That would be best, but you know it’s not going to happen. The state loves being involved in marriage, because it gives it more power.

      The fuckin socon douchebags are just like the gun grabbers. They wait and wait for any opportunity to turn back the clock on increases in freedom. They’re always there, always waiting.

      1. It’s the libs/progs as well. Remember who pushed hard on gay marriage, but utterly rejected the analogy of polygamy (or polygyny).

        1. True, but neither side is good on polygamy. Who has seriously pushed it, aside from a few libertarians, fundamentalist Mormons, a few Muslims, and polyamorous individuals? SoCons only bring it up to try and trap liberals, they’d never go for it either.

        2. Let’s not kid ourselves: gay marriage is a win for conservatives, even if they fail to recognize it. Now that gays can marry you see a strong societal push towards the idea that those in committed relationships should get married. “The gays” won’t ruin marriage, in the end marriage will ruin whatever counter-culture remained amongst “the gays.”

  2. Now hiring a worker meant you were stuck with them unless they committed some absolutely flagrant offense…

    We’re already halfway there now, where the employer is considered by too many in loco parentis of a grown-ass adult, in charge of their health care, commute, diet, physical fitness, retirement, work-life balance, gender preference, etc., etc.

    1. gender preference

      The hoMOsexshul agenda Nick Gillespie warned us about.

  3. by 1985, New York was the only outlier

    Bunch of backwoods Bible-beating SoCons…

    1. It is strange that it was the last state to do no-fault, isn’t it?

      1. From what I read, by the 1960s the divorce lawyers had already found so many workarounds that the law was in practice close to no-fault. So the “need” for “reform” was less urgent.

        1. The NY divorce lawyers

        2. As Woody Allen put it, “God said thou shalt not commit adultery, but the state of NY says ya gotta.”

          Still, I oppose no-fault divorce, and don’t see the discouragement of marriage as a bad thing. The problem was laws requiring specific cause for divorce, rather than allowing dissolution on terms similar to those of other partnerships.

  4. Suderman isn’t getting out of that marriage so easily. 🙂

    The real problem will be even more men falsely accused of whatever it takes for her to end the marriage and get her kids, cash, and prizes.

  5. Looks like the GOP has found their strategy for blowing the next election.

  6. When you make contracts harder to exit, you also make it less likely people will want to enter into them.

    Although it’s not being openly said, I’m pretty sure that’s partially intended by at least some of the backers. I know more than a few conservatives who view “Weekend Marriages” as just as much an abomination as gay marriage. If it’s harder to get out, they’re obviously hoping to see fewer of those types of marriages as well.

    Still a pretty hamfisted way of going about it though. Seems to me premarital counseling would work better than focusing on divorce. Plenty of ministers these days actually require it for couples before they’ll perform a service.

    1. *ministers* requiring it is one thing – the *state* requiring it is a whole ‘nother.

      1. Well a bunch of libertarians sure wanted the state to get more deeply involved in the marriage business.

        1. No they don’t you’re just fucking stupid.

          1. Yeah, federal courts totally aren’t a part of the state…

            you’re just fucking stupid.

            Curtain up, projector on

  7. “Returning to the old ways might force more people to stay unhappily married”

    Not necessarily – there’s still something called divorce from bread and board, which gets the innocent spouse the benefits of divorce except for the right to remarry when the spouse is alive. As my namesake put it, this is not a debate about forcing people to stay with their abusive/cheating spouse, but about whether the government will recognize any *amours* you enter into after leaving your spouse.

    And while I’m philosophically sympathetic to punishing adulterers, in practice I observe that the risk of being prosecuted for adultery has historically been comparable to the risk of being prosecuted for going give miles over the limit.

    So the only issue is whether you can demand that the state recognize your multiple relationships.

    1. going *five* miles over

  8. “When you make contracts harder to exit, you also make it less likely people will want to enter into them”

    So, why is the marriage rate less today than it was when divorce was more difficult?

    1. Stopping bringing reality into this.

    2. A completely separate issue is fogging the clear picture from the data – there’s less *need* or social pressure to get married to day.

      Way back when, social norms would have kept the single woman locked in a low-level job and locked the single man out of the upper reaches of his profession.

      Hell, even today its hard to make the upper reaches of the military hierarchy without a spouse to handle the social duties and other stuff expected – hold-overs from those older times.

      1. Yeah, Megan goes into this in her article some, how the social pressures (and rewards) were different/greater.

        “In short, the legal system of yesteryear didn’t have to worry that harsh divorce laws would discourage marriage entirely; any marriages that they did discourage probably shouldn’t have happened. But people would continue to get married, because there wasn’t any viable alternative for the majority of people who wanted to live on their own and raise a family without the neighbors talking — or calling the vice squad….”

    3. So, why is the marriage rate less today than it was when divorce was more difficult?

      Because exiting the divorce contract is can be a nightmare, and I think that the younger generations are wising up to it.

      When you think about the legal and technical implications of what marriage is– once you get past the “I’ll love you forever honey” part of it– it becomes pretty obvious what a dangerous financial commitment marriage can be.

      1. But it’s not as if young people are wiser today than they were in the past – the incentives are different. And these incentives (I should say disincentives) definitely include no-fault laws.

        1. No, I wouldn’t say they’re wiser, although I might say they’re more informed.

          My comment was really speculation, hence the “I think”.

          I’m not going to pontificate as an expert on the history of marriage. But I do think that marriage has evolved to a place where due to the secular nature of it, people see it more for what its become: A State contract that goes into automatic effect the moment you say, “I do.”

          Different states vary of course, and I tend to only speak to ‘community property’ states when I grouse about divorce.

          If there’s a state where you can say, “Yeah, but he/she cheated on me, so I get to keep my retirement, and he/she gets to keep his/her student loan debt”, I’m all for that.

          But when you take a community property/no fault divorce state for what it is, one realizes how dangerous that can be.

          Ask almost anyone: “Would you enter into a business contract with someone where either party could walk away at any moment, nullify the contract, and at the moment of nullification, walk away with half the assets and cash of the business?” Most people would look at you like you’re crazy and say, “Jesus no, who on earth would do that?”

          1. All true.

            1. I mean, the part about no fault.

    4. So, why is the marriage rate less today than it was when divorce was more difficult?

      One significant reason is reliable birth control, approved in the U.S. in 1960.

  9. I’ll consider it good legislation if it forces marriage contracts to be treated as other contracts, whereby the party initiating the breach of contract does not have a claim on the assets or earnings of the party who faithfully and dutifully fulfilled his obligations to the contract.

    1. That would be such a vast improvement over what we have now – but getting even that much would be, shall we say, a challenge.

    2. I’m not sure what you mean here – if you’re talking about the person who breaks the terms of the marriage not being entitled to his/her ‘fair share’ then I’m with you.

      If you’re talking about the person who *initiates* the divorce being automatically cut-out, then no.

      1. Isn’t initiating the termination of a contract ipso facto evidence of breaking the terms of the contract?

        1. So if you stop paying your mortgage and the bank forecloses on you, the fact the bank iniated the lawsuit proves they’re the ones at fault?

          1. No, when I say the person who initiates the divorce, I don’t mean the person who files it. I mean the person who wants to nullify the contract without any valid cause other than “Im not haaaaaaapppppppy“.

            1. Except – that *is* a valid cause.

              To me at least. I certainly don’t think that you should stick around (or get nothing) for *decades*, just because.

              1. I certainly don’t think that you should stick around (or get nothing) for *decades*, just because.

                Unilaterally withdrawing from the contract/agreement without fault by the other party should entitle you to exactly dick. How the actual fuck do you figure the initiating party is entitled to something from the other party when they are withdrawing from the contract/agreement without specific cause? Doesn’t mean you have to stick around. Does mean you should get nothing.

              2. agammamon,

                that is not a valid cause. That is not what marriage is about. You have probably been fooled by modern pop culture, where it’s all about “true love”. The whole true love mentality translates into people who care about in- the- moment- happiness based solely on their fickle whims.

                Marriage is about creating a stable environment for child rearing.

                Luckily, it turns out that true happiness is about following through with a value and learning to accept and be happy in your situation, not about getting exactly what you want at any one time. So real marriage, where you stand by your commitment, can create great happiness

  10. Despite the fact that it’s driven up the divorce rate, no-fault divorce is generally looked at as a pretty positive development in America. It frees people from being trapped in miserable marriages, for one. And studies have suggested it has helped cut down on domestic abuse and spousal murder.

    What’s super cool about no-fault divorce combined with community property state laws is it creates a pressure-cooker environment of instant, on-demand contract nullification and big payouts.

    Putting alleged “social good” above individual freedom and flourishing rarely seems to lead to either.

    Lizbeth, I’ve got the Progressives on line 2, would you care to explain that to them as well?

    1. We have, she has. Neither side is listening.

    2. What’s super cool about no-fault divorce combined with community property state laws is it creates a pressure-cooker environment of instant, on-demand contract nullification and big payouts.

      This.

      No-Fault divorce laws are pretty much carte blanche for SWPL wimminz to leave their loving and dutiful husbands for some amoeba brained idiot in a Eat Prey Love fantasy moment and end up pocketing half of everything he made up til that point and more than half of everything he will make going forward into the future.

      1. No-Fault divorce laws are pretty much carte blanche for SWPL wimminz to leave their loving and dutiful husbands for some amoeba brained idiot in a Eat Prey Love fantasy moment and end up pocketing half of everything he made up til that point and more than half of everything he will make going forward into the future.

        When my uncle got divorced, I’m pretty sure he decided right then and there he was never going to retire and die at his desk so that his ex-wife couldn’t touch a penny of his retirement kitty–it all goes to the kids in that instance.

  11. Leave it to legislators, however, to think they know better about your love life than you do.

    As much as they might say otherwise, I’ve come to the conclusion that pretty much everyone wants the state balls deep in their marriages.

    1. I think its more of a simple acknowledgement that the status quo is immoral and untenable; mixed with a side of “what about the childrenz.”

  12. Here’s a gem from the article:

    “as with legal challenges to Obamacare and the rise of the tea party movement, today’s fringe idea can quickly become tomorrow’s mainstream conservatism.”

  13. Remember when the talking point used to be that the hypocritical SoCons were focusing on gay marriage but ignoring the divorce problem?

    “Opponents of gay marriage say they are defending the institution of marriage, but if that were really true why aren’t they spending at least as much time and vigor attacking divorce?”

    http://atheism.about.com/od/li…..ivorce.htm

    “Indeed, divorce and remarriage are strongly condemned in the New Testament (“Anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery”), but there is no serious movement today to ban divorced people from getting married?just gays.”

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/out…..riage.html

    1. “”In Luke 16:18 Jesus says, “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

      “…if one wants to make a big deal about homosexuality based on biblical precepts, why start with an unclear teaching when it would be easier to start with some clear commands.”

      http://www.mydd.com/users/chin…..y-marriage

      “So with this in mind, and considering that adultery is essentially the biggest sin in the Bible, why aren’t Christians fighting to ban divorced people from getting remarried? Why aren’t they arguing that such marriages harm the sanctity of marriage, as ordained by God? Why aren’t they pointing out that divorced people who get remarried are living a sinful lifestyle of adultery?”

      http://serene-musings.blogspot…..ge_17.html

      1. “If those who use the “sanctity” argument were genuinely concerned about the institution of marriage they’d focus their efforts on helping those straight married couples who are at risk of divorcing. If marriage was so “sacred” they’d also be pursuing the outlawing of heterosexual divorce. They do neither of these things.”

        http://www.politicspa.com/pa-d…..age/49588/

        1. “And, like all in the anti-gay-marriage crowd, Anderson spends precious little time on what really threatens marriages?divorce. But that is something straight people do, and with conservative heroes like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich having had more wives than I’ve had cars, it’s a little difficult for the “pro-marriage” crowd to be honest that its argument is not about saving marriage but about stopping people it doesn’t like from marrying.”

          http://www.vanityfair.com/onli…..y-marriage

          1. I love how none of these assertions about conservatives who’ve been through divorce ever bother digging into the details like “why did he have a divorce, whose idea was it?”

            I have the scarlet letter of divorce on my name, but I wasn’t the one who wanted to go that route, she did, and as such, I had no options in the matter. (i do look forward to reminding her in a few days on the second anniversary of her father’s death that divorcing me didnt bring her dear old deceased daddy back ahhahahahahaha, yes I’m a prick).

            1. I have the scarlet letter of divorce on my name, but I wasn’t the one who wanted to go that route,

              I wear mine proudly. My ex-wife wears both of hers proudly. She assures me though, that while her current marriage isn’t perfect, she’s not keen on getting her third.

    2. It would be nice if their methods didn’t consistently and always involve attacking individual freedom.

      1. OK, but I doubt you’ve been pushing the “but, but…divorce is worse!” meme. I suspect you’ve been for “individual freedom” all along.

        I just wonder if the “they’re ignoring divorce!” crowd will start admitting their error, or whether they’ll just swivel around to the new talking point about “they’re taking away our right to divorce.”

        And I love how the article says that the anti-divorce initiatives are somehow under-the-radar. If these proposals haven’t been getting mainstream attention, it’s because the MSM has been downplaying them – while running articles about the hypocritical divorce-loving conservatives.

        1. Ken Cuccinelli was raked over the coals during the last election for proposing an end to no fault divorce laws.

          These things aren’t under the radar.

  14. I get the feeling ENB has several antique Sears catalogs.

  15. Notorious is happier in this thread than I am in a booze-n-bitcoins thread.

    (I kid)

    1. Think about a mosquito on a nudist beach. Then you’ll have some idea of how excited I am to be responding to so many bad arguments.

      1. I kid about being a mosquito.

        1. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a mosquito

          1. mosquito is racist teabagger code word for little muzlim! right?

            1. No, Islam originated in desert areas, mosquitoes breed in water, it has to be a slur for someone else.

  16. Sometimes man you jsut have to roll with it.

    http://www.GotsDatAnon.tk

  17. “Despite the fact that it’s driven up the divorce rate, no-fault divorce is generally looked at as a pretty positive development in America.”

    It is? How many kid’s have had to go through the pain of parent’s divorcing for frivolous reasons? How has ingle motherhood done for divorced women’s and their children? Divorce is a bad result. The children still are trapped with an unhappy marriage except the parents are sniping at each other through them as the parent’s main point of contact with each other. Perhaps no-fault makes sense for childless marriages, but once children are involved,not living up to commitments to others freely made is not liberty but damaging libertinism.

    1. The state can enact its dubious marital laws but nothing can change the reality that far too many dummies get married and have kids.

      Frankly, I’d far prefer most people just never marry or make babies and just live their lives as simple libertines.

      1. Frankly, I’d far prefer most people just never marry or make babies and just live their lives as simple libertines.

        I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    2. I don’t see how forcing kids to grow up in a household with parents in an unhappy marriage setting a bad example for a relationship is somehow better.

      1. Again, the kids are still in the unhappy marriage after divorce and in arguably a worse position.

  18. Due to its proximity to the minefield of pitfalls marriage should be looked at with extreme suspicion before entering which, of course, runs counter social traditions.

    If people would just use their goddamn brains more than their emotional fluffies before they entered into serial monogamy arrangements that often result in personal cataclysm maybe the state wouldn’t feel so compelled to act like the busybody it tends to be.

  19. It seems some people don’t realize the State is already in complete control of divorce. The divorce industry is huge because of the incestuous relationship of politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers/judges. Unsurprising the greed for power and money from these groups have led them to side with women against average men to the detriment of children, men and society overall.

    Doing away with no fault would probably reduce the role of the state as it would give both partners leverage meaning the two sides would have to negotiate. If you don’t believe this watch which side divorce lawyers, feminists and the family court bureaucrats join.

  20. I costs under $100 for an uncontested divorce in Maryland. If the parties come to an agreement themselves in regard to custody and property, it won’t cost them any more than $100. Of course, if they can’t, they pay a lot in legal fees to negotiate with the other side on these issues. But that is a result of their own disagreements. Once they do finally come to a consent agreement, the court will almost always just sign it.

    I would like to see an article on the “documentary industry” and how they drum up fake activism on unfounded grounds, and make a pretty penny doing it.

    1. posted on wrong board

  21. Actually, I disagree. It will be a lot easier to get a divorce, especially with DIY divorces and online divorces. I heard they are even making an app now on the iPhone (which is ridiculous btw). See for yourself. http://www.document-do-it-your…..m/divorce/

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