No-Fault Divorce: The End of Marriage?
- Monday, June 01, 2009
By now, any observer with a modicum of moral insight is aware that marriage is an institution in crisis. Nevertheless, one of the most significant factors contributing to this crisis is often overlooked, and that one factor has led to the breakup of more marriages than any other -- no-fault divorce.
In an insightful article published in the March 2005 edition of Crisis magazine, Stephen Baskerville argues that America's embrace of easy divorce is the most significant reason that marriage is now threatened and, by some measures, hanging by a thread.
Baskerville, a political scientist at Howard University, points to the 2004 election as evidence that many Americans understand that marriage is in peril. "America is in revolt over marriage," Baskerville explains. "Some 17 states have now passed amendments to protect the definition of marriage, and more will follow." Baskerville credits the same-sex marriage controversy with building considerable support for President Bush's reelection and "has also shaken the decades-long loyalty of African Americas to the Democratic Party."
Beyond all this, Baskerville also sees signs of hope in cultural developments such as Bill Cosby's comment on family morality and his call for African American males to reassume responsibility as husbands and fathers. Similarly, the political ground is truly shaking when voters in Massachusetts -- by an 85-percent margin -- called for fathers to be given equality in custody decisions.
"Only a short time ago, few would have predicted such a public uprising in defense of marriage and the family," Baskerville notes. At the same time, he argues that the most significant enemy of marriage is divorce. "The most direct threat to the family is divorce on demand," Baskerville bravely argues. "Sooner or later if civilization is to endure, it must be brought under control."
The story behind America's love affair with no-fault divorce is a sad and instructive tale. As Baskerville documents, no-fault divorce laws emerged in the United States during the 1970s and quickly spread across the nation. Even though only nine states had no-fault divorce laws in 1977, by 1995, every state had legalized no-fault divorce.
Behind all this is an ideological revolution driven by feminism and facilitated by this society's embrace of autonomous individualism. Baskerville argues that divorce "became the most devastating weapon in the arsenal of feminism, because it creates millions of gender battles on the most personal level." As far back as 1947, the National Association of Women Lawyers [NAWL] was pushing for what we now know as no-fault divorce. More recently, NAWL claims credit for the divorce revolution, describing it as "the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken."
The feminists and NAWL were not working alone, of course. Baskerville explains that the American Bar Association "persuaded the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws [NCCUSL] to produce the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act." Eventually, this led to a revolution in law and convulsions in society at large. This legal revolution effectively drove a stake into the heart of marriage itself, with inevitable consequences. In effect, no-fault divorce has become the catalyst for one of the most destructive cultural shifts in human history. Now, no-fault divorce is championed by many governments in the name of human rights, and America's divorce revolution is spreading around the world under the banner of "liberation."
Baskerville gets right to the heart of the matter, labeling no-fault divorce as a "misnomer." In reality, the "no-fault" language was taken from the world of automobile insurance. These new divorce laws did not really remove fault from the context of divorce, but they "did create unilateral and involuntary divorce, so that one spouse may end a marriage without any agreement or fault by the other." As Baskerville explains, "Moreover, the spouse who divorces or otherwise abrogates the marriage contract incurs no liability for the cost or consequences, creating a unique and unprecedented legal anomaly."
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