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Why no-fault divorce is such an important option for couples

In the late 1960s, California became the first state in the nation to adopt “no-fault” divorce laws. Couples filing for divorce no longer had to assert that one spouse violated the marital contract in some way (through infidelity, for example). No-fault divorce has made the process less contentious in many cases, because couples do not have to blame one another in a divorce petition.

Since California started the trend, all 50 states have adopted some form of no-fault divorce option. But according to recent news articles, a legislator in one state has introduced a bill that seemingly seeks to end the no-fault option for couples seeking divorce.

A Kansas lawmaker has already received substantial criticism from many Kansans about a bill he introduced on behalf of a fellow legislator. The bill seeks to remove “incompatibility” from the divorce petition, to be replaced by a list of eight other options.

Although he didn’t author the bill, the lawmaker who introduced it shared his support for the measure. However, his public comments on the matter suggest that he fundamentally misunderstands no-fault divorce and the divorce process generally.

He said: “I think we’ve made divorce way too easy in this country. If we really want to respect marriage it needs to be a commitment that people work at and don’t find arbitrary reasons to give up.”

First of all, anyone who has gone through a divorce will tell you that even under the best circumstances, divorce is not easy or quick. The end of a marriage is not only emotionally taxing, it also poses logistical and financial challenges as well. If children are involved, the process becomes that much harder. If anything, getting married has been made “way too easy” in the United States.

As for abolishing the no-fault option, this does not shorten the divorce process or make it easier in any substantial way. Rather, it is a recognition of the fact that relationships can change and couples can grow apart. Neither spouse has to have committed a serious and unforgivable “fault.”

Hopefully, for the sake of all Kansans, this bill will not be taken seriously. Getting rid of no-fault divorce will probably not lower the divorce rate. But it will almost certainly make divorce more adversarial and contentious. And that would be a giant step in the wrong direction.

Source: KansasCity.com, "Kansas bill would eliminate ‘no-fault’ divorces," Bryan Lowry, Feb. 8, 2014

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