By making it easier to break up a home, no-fault divorce only makes it more likely that parents will commit this injustice against their children. Above all, divorce strips children of their human right to a mother and a father bound in a permanent bond to each other and to them. Stand up for the young and vulnerable. End no-fault divorce. It is the loving and compassionate thing to do.
How appropriate that Justice Alito brought up cellphones in the recent Supreme Court hearings on the marriage cases. Because these days it seems like it is easier to get out of a marriage than it is to get out of a cellphone contract.
It is no secret that marriage is in a state of severe crisis in America. And while academics, statisticians, and pundits may quarrel about the exact divorce rate or its causes, no one would deny that the widespread legalization of no-fault divorce beginning in the early 1970s saw an explosion of divorce in this country.
Yet as social conservatives, and even many liberals, wring their hands about marital and familial breakdown, few seem to question whether our experiment with treating marriage like a restaurant experience—order what you like and send it back if you change your mind—is worth reconsidering.
Instead, no-fault divorce has become an assumed feature of the landscape of unbridled American freedom. Whereas once freedom in this country meant the right to live a good life, the ability to be a moral agent in the human enterprise, the chance to chase happiness, it now increasingly appears to mean the right to do whatever you want whenever you feel like it, regardless of whom you destroy in the process.
No-fault divorce is destroying women, children, and men. More precisely, divorce destroys marriage, and the destruction of marriage harms every party involved. The legality of no-fault divorce just makes it infinitely easier to hurt people. There are no two ways about it. No one comes out of a divorce a happier and more whole person.
Particularly offensive no-fault divorces are those where one spouse is protesting. In these cases, one spouse is literally abandoning the other (and frequently the children as well), despite having made public vows and having signed a contract before civil and religious officials stating their lifelong commitment to his or her spouse.
In this country you can come home from work and tell your spouse the marriage is over and he or she can do nothing but cry, and fight for the best financial payout possible. Try doing that with Verizon. Or while under contract to buy a home. Or with your gym membership. You’ll get laughed at.
Eighty percent of divorces are unilateral. The legal sanctioning of human abandonment must end.
The Feminist Case against No-Fault Divorce
It’s true that we can thank women for no-fault divorce laws. They fought hard in the 1960s and 1970s for the right to be freed from that terrible, hierarchical construct that is marriage. In 1970, California was the first state to fall, triggering a nationwide no-fault domino wave. Feminists like Betty Friedan, who once called marriage a “comfortable concentration camp” from which women should be freed, were jubilant. And they got their wish. Each state that subsequently enacted no-fault divorce laws saw immediate spikes in divorce rates. Surprise!
Yet twenty-seven years later, even Friedan admitted, “I think we made a mistake with no fault divorce,” recognizing that no-fault divorce had led to “unintended consequences” that adversely affected women. That same year, the president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, founded by Friedan, made the case against no-fault divorce in the pages of the New York Times. New York was the last state where it had not been legalized. New York fell four years later, making our country a fully no-fault nation.
The reason for feminists’ about-face on no-fault divorce has largely to do with the reality that no-fault divorce, especially unilateral no-fault divorce, has a disproportionately negative economic impact on women.