Today’s article is a special two for one: two of our writers debate the merits of divorce reform. Who do you think makes the most convincing argument?
The Societal Advantages of Divorce Reform
by Pearl Rimon
Divorce is a crime onto children. Children are born from the union of two parents. When the parties leave the courtroom though, a child is only left with one parent. The debate around marriage these last few decades has emphasized the parties within the marriage union. However, the debate has often ignored the community aspect of marriage, especially child-rearing. It is this negligence in our discourse that has harmed so many families. Divorce reform is necessary to strengthen the nuclear family.
Divorce Reform Defined
Divorce reform is typically based on two ideas: mandatory marriage counseling before divorce and/or elimination of no-fault divorce. Mandatory marriage counseling means that couples who wish to divorce must visit a marriage counselor before the family court will hear their case. No-fault divorce is the idea that there does not need to be a showing of wrongdoing by either party for the dissolution of the marriage.
No-fault divorce has created a system that supports the disintegration of families. After New York changed to no-fault divorce, divorces rose 12% in the first seven months of its enactment. It is clear that the ease of obtaining a divorce leads to higher divorce rates, thus tearing apart more families and effectively costing taxpayers more.
The ease of filing for divorce has caused people to not try and fight for their marriages as they once did, where instead of rushing into marriage, they are rushing towards the dissolution of the marriage. The concept of rushing into marriage is often talked about, but the concept of rushing into divorce is often disregarded.
Effects of divorce
Divorce not only has a great cost to the parties involved, but has a greater cost to society.
- It has cost the American public $112 billion annually
- The average divorce costs about $2,500
The passage of no-fault divorce has made it considerably easier for couples to file for divorce, thus having a rippling effect not only on the personal lives of families, but an effect on the economy due to the costs associated with it. Since divorce breaks apart families, the standard of living for many families drops off, and most must seek public assistance like food stamps, housing assistance, and child welfare services.
Children tend to benefit from growing up in stable families where there is no upheaval, which is generally caused by divorce. The effects on the children of the divorced range from changing schools, constant traveling from one parent to another, getting used to a new family, a change in the standard of living, and unfortunately being present for the many child support and custody trials. Children from stable family environments are less likely to be suspended from school, commit acts of delinquency and have fewer suicide attempts.
Divorce Reform Proposals
Mandatory waiting periods require parents wait about a year before a divorce is final. This makes couples “wait it out” and would result in both parties wanting to try harder to save their marriage rather than going the easy route of divorce. Currently, the waiting period for divorce ranges from ten states with no waiting period, 29 states less than six months and a minority states have a year waiting period. Many of the proposals of divorce reform would require divorce education or marriage counseling for couples during the waiting period, which would enlighten them about the negative effects of divorce and to consider the possibility of reconciliation.
Mandating reconciliation counseling and waiting periods before finalizing a divorce would make couples reconsider other routes to fixing their marriage. Divorce reform in the long run would result in lessening the burden on our court systems because less couples would ideally finalize their divorce after counseling and the waiting period. Prolonging divorce proceedings would make the parties involved think about other solutions to their marital woes rather than simply thinking divorce would essentially solve all of their spousal problems.
Divorce Reform Will Not Strengthen Marriages
by Jessica Tran
“50% of marriages end in divorce.” This is a statistic many are familiar with, but a “fact” that is only partially rooted in truth. If you were to say that the divorce rate in the United States was high, then you would be correct, but only if you were living in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Currently, the trend for divorce is actually decreasing.
- Roughly 70% of marriages that began in the 1990s have reached their 15th anniversary.
- Couples that married in the 2000s are divorcing at much lower rates than those in the 1990s.
- People are marrying later in life, therefore entering into more mature marriages.
So if divorce rates are actually decreasing, then why are some groups advocating for divorce reform?
What is Divorce Reform?
Divorce reform may mean many different things to many different advocates. Here are a few of the most prominent:
The leading advocate for divorce reform is the Coalition for Divorce Reform (CDR). Their goal is to reduce “unnecessary” divorces by mandating an eight-month reconciliation and reflection period during divorce proceedings. The CDR believes that no-fault divorces are too easy and the main reason why the divorce rate is so high.
No-fault divorce allows one spouse to end the marriage on the grounds that they no longer get along. Prior to no-fault divorce, divorce was granted if one spouse was able to prove things, such as:
- Cruelty, or
- That the other spouse was a felon
Under fault divorce, if you couldn’t get consent from your spouse or prove any of the faults listed above, then you were stuck in a marriage you didn’t want to be in. Currently, all states offer some form of no-fault divorce.
Although there are many that stand against no-fault divorce laws, there are some that see the benefit of having such laws.
- Since the passage of no-fault divorce laws, the divorce rate has fallen from 23 divorces per 1,000 to 17 per 1,000.
- Domestic violence and female suicide rates declined in states that passed no-fault divorce laws.
What About the Children?
Besides lowering the divorce rate, proponents often advocate and want divorce reform for the sake of children. Many believe that children are the ultimate victims of divorce. Proponents staunchly believe that couples should try to salvage their marriage and stay together in order to have a harmonious nuclear family.
Many couples that do recognize problems in their marriage often claim they remained married for their children. Children will encounter fear, anxiety, and other emotional distress during their parents’ divorce, but the reality is that many of these children grow up to be well-adjusted adults that aren’t eternally scarred by their parents’ divorce.
Staying together and trying to work out your marital problems is great and can be successful for some couples. However, keeping up the façade of a happy home may not be the healthiest thing for you or your children. Maintaining an unhappy marriage may lead to problems such as:
- Your children mimicking and thinking that being in a toxic relationship is okay and acceptable
- Staying in a loveless marriage may keep up appearances, but it can be detrimental and harmful for your emotional health
Being concerned and thinking about the welfare of children is important when discussing divorce reform. However, proponents often advocate for reconciliation because they believe that a two-parent home is crucial for healthy children. The emphasis seems to be about the number of parents as opposed to the quality of parenting. Often, proponents disregard single-parent homes or co-parenting options that can be healthy and good for both children and parents.
Divorce reform is a noble idea, but it’s just that—a well-meaning idea. Forcing two adults to play nice when they’ve reached their limits is exhaustive on the couple, their family, and the court system. Mandating reconciliation counseling would be a step back in divorce law and is harking back to the old days of fault divorce laws. Enforcing reconciliation counseling is another unnecessary step for couples that prolongs the divorce proceeding with no guarantee of a happy ending.