New York is often though of as the center of liberalism and feminism. But there is one area in which this state is head and shoulders above the rest. This morning on Morning Edition of NPR news, the economics report focused on – divorce laws! New York was the only state that did not, as NPR put it, join the “no-fault revolution” of the 1970s. In most states a divorce can be had after a separation of 30-90 days if one of the parties alleges that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”. This came from a court decision around 1970 declaring that “irretrievable broken-ness” is all the grounds necessary for divorce. New York, however, still requires either showing of fault (adultery or cruelty) or a one-year separation before the divorce can occur. This is reflected in a substantially less divorce rate per capita in New York. Society is separated on which approach to the dissolution of marriage is best for our country. But change, be it for good or for bad, is on the horizon. Myriad groups in New York are pushing for a rewriting of divorce laws to allow for no-fault divorce, and one state judge has even declared that the current laws make a divorce cost too much and take too much time. And we know that when a judge decides something that is the end of the discussion. Proponents of change argue that no-fault divorce promotes good feelings between people and decreases costs due to money and time. In their eyes, the current laws only prolong the inevitable and stretch out an excruciating process, and they are based on a Judeo-Christian heritage that is outdated and anti-progress. Surprisingly enough, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is opposed to the change - but not necessarily for moral reasons. While an uncontested divorce may be made easier by no-fault laws, NOW says that the majority of divorces are not really “uncontested”. Since the husband generally controls the majority of the finances, in most states the wife has no bargaining power. If a husband has an affair and wants out of the marriage, he can generally leave his wife high and dry without a red cent – in a no-fault divorce state. However, if grounds for divorce are required, the wife is able to bring suit against the husband because she is innocent of wrongdoing. NOW explains that the New York divorce law allows her a bargaining chip to get the money that she needs to take care of the kids and recover from the dissolution of her marriage. The New York Women’s Bar Association disagrees with NOW. Of course, this makes sense; they are a bunch of fat-cat liberal feminist attorneys who stand to gain lots of business if no-fault divorce is adopted in New York. A spokesperson for the Women’s Bar Association said that the laws need to be changed. “Fault divorce had its heyday. But society changes and so should the laws.”
Society changes and so should the laws. Perhaps. If our laws are based on the “societal norm”, then moral standards are majority opinion. The only difference between anarchy and
democracy is the heart of the people.
God created the institution of marriage with a purpose. No-fault divorce has led to more broken homes, court battles, and division in our nation’s churches by forsaking God’s law. Unless moral standards and laws are based on the unchanging standards of the Ten Commandments, no society can survive.
So, is fault-oriented divorce the answer? Is no-fault divorce the answer? Are either of these approaches to the dissolution of marriage biblical? You tell me.
David S. MacMillan III