No-Fault Divorce: America’s Divorce Mill

What is no-fault divorce?

When you ask most people, they will say it’s a mutual-consent process, or that it preserves privacy, or that it eliminates blame for the failure of the marriage.

Not many people will answer that it’s a lawsuit in which one party is suing the other party. And even fewer will know that it came from the Soviet Union.

Like previous divorce actions, no-fault divorce is still a lawsuit, which means that one party is invoking the state’s police powers against the other party. The main difference now is that the person filing for divorce no longer has to provide a reason for why they’re doing it. This type of lawsuit is unique; it’s the only type of legal action devoid of any ‘claim’ (complaint), and if the party being sued doesn’t know the complaint, then there’s no possibility of a defense.

As for the communist origins of no-fault divorce, a 1975 law review article by Donald M. Bolas entitled, “No Fault Divorce: Born in the Soviet Union?” explains how, after speaking with Russian lawyers, he stumbled upon how Soviet divorce law may have influenced our own laws.

Bolas explains that when the Bolsheviks took over in 1917, religious marriages were no longer recognized by the state. Marriage became a “state action” and divorce became merely an administrative process known as Russian Post Card Divorce. One spouse simply filled out the paperwork at city hall and the other party was then notified by mail that they were no longer married. Some people married twenty times. There was also a ‘free love’ bureau where people could sign up for partners.

The fact that this type of law increases the divorce rate is proven every day in the United States. Since the onset of no-fault divorce, the divorce rate doubled with one divorce granted for every two marriages that take place. In terms of sheer numbers, approximately a million divorces are finalized each year, translating into 3,000 divorces every day.

How coincidental that the U.S. divorce rate is among the highest in the world, vying only with Russia!

Another interesting fact about no-fault divorce is how strikingly similar its underlying thinking is to abortion law. In fact, laws dealing with both subjects were being drafted at the same meeting. This is how it all began.

History

In 1970, a national group of lawyers gathered for their annual meeting at the Colony Motor Hotel in Clayton, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. At this meeting, two new ‘model’ laws were being drafted and debated. These laws would serve as ‘blueprints’ for state legislators around the country to enact as state laws. The purpose was to create more uniformity in state laws. One of these laws was called the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA) and the other was the Uniform Abortion Act (then, in 1973, Roe v. Wade overturned all state abortion laws).

A common theme found in both of these debates was the word viability and this word would be operative in rationalizing both of these laws.

In the case of abortion, the discussion revolved around the viability of the human life, meaning its potential for survival outside the mother. The divorce debate was similar: a marriage could be terminated “on the basis that it no longer is a viable institution,” according to the transcripts that have been preserved from these debates.

Using viability as the operative term would soften the discussion on divorce, or abortion, making these new laws more palatable to the public. This way of thinking would also help cover up the truth so we wouldn’t have to ‘look’ at the reality: that both are really destructive acts. One act destroys the product of the one-flesh union while the purpose of the other act is to destroy the one-flesh union itself.

During a pregnancy, we now are able to ‘see’ the reality of life due to technical advances. However, in the case of marriage, there isn’t any test. One person’s word suffices. Judges and lawyers don’t check for vital signs in the marriages, which assumes they are all dead on arrival.

The label given to this new type of divorce is something of a misnomer. The term ‘no-fault’ came into the vernacular with the introduction of ‘no-fault’ car insurance. The rationale behind no-fault car insurance was to move cases more quickly into ‘settlements.’

The same is true for no-fault divorce because now the emphasis is on moving cases into mediation where settlements are supposed to be reached, conveniently skipping the step of determining viability. Once a petition for divorce is filed, the marriage is essentially doomed, since no one checks for any pulse.

The term “no-fault” has served masterfully to cover up something that is far more sinister. The idea that the State is forcing people out of their marriages is hard to fathom but because every divorce petition is granted, and none are ever denied, then there are certainly a few viable marriages that meet an untimely death.

Conciliation/Reconciliation

Before the onset of no-fault divorce there was a burgeoning activity around the country called the Conciliation Court Movement with the focus on marital reconciliation. This movement began in 1939 when California enacted its Children’s Court of Conciliation Law in order to:

protect the rights of children and to promote the public welfare by preserving and promoting family life and the institution of matrimony, and to provide means for the reconciliation of spouses and the amicable settlement of domestic and family controversies.

By 1970, Conciliation Courts were operating in Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon and Wisconsin, using a growing body of knowledge and techniques to help restore family life. But now, such lofty goals cannot be found anywhere in our statutes.

When no-fault divorce entered the picture, the emphasis in conciliation courts soon changed to ‘divorce with dignity.’ Settlement negotiations took place under the auspices of a mediator who assisted the courts in keeping the conveyor belt moving.

Is there another possibility? Can distressed spouses find ‘relief’ for their anguish? Could we create Marriage Support facilities that operate in the same way as the Pregnancy Support facilities that offer another answer than abortion? Marriage Support facilities could do the same thing by offering couples the help they need to stay together.

In many ways, the Church might be the perfect home for these facilities. Tribunal offices could incorporate the Conciliation Court model, summoning couples from the civil courts. At this time, spouses are typically directed to Catholic Charities, but this is not enough because the problem requires a blending of both legal and pastoral initiatives.

Also needed are skillful practitioners who are trained in multiple fields. Working with a dyadic relationship is much harder than working with one person individually. Not many practitioners can handle such a challenge without bringing their own biases into the work.

By all appearances we are a nation that wants to defend traditional marriage, as evidenced by the number of state constitutional amendments that have passed. The next step is to protect marriages from being destroyed in this country’s no-fault divorce mills.

[This article originally appeared in Canticle Magazine and is used by permission of the author .]

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  • jmtfh

    On the same note, my Catholic husband, who is also the Faith Formation Director/Parish Administrator at a local parish, divorced me after 29 years of marriage and 4 children–no matter that I tried to talk him out of it. His reason? He decided that he “never really loved me.”
    Now he is seeking an annulment. I went in tears to talk to one of the priest in the marriage tribunal here in our Archdiocese, about my options with the annulment. “It feels as though I’m going the divorce all over again,” I told him. “And I am concerned about how this will affect my children.”
    His response? “Oh, annulments have nothing to do with your children; it won’t affect them.”
    Even HE is clueless! Annulments most certainly DO affect the children whose parents are divorced and now the marriage is annulled! It causes more pain and confusion on top of the divorce. Along with Marriage Support facilities, there is also a need to acknowledge the pain and stress annulments as well as divorce put on our children and their faith lives. We need something, some forum or program to help our children deal with the double whammy of divorce AND annulment!

  • SMG 62

    I have to agree with the first reply. When annulments are being granted at such a high rate, it is hard to listen to Catholic arguments that divorce is too easy. I understand the fundamental difference between divorce and annulment, but the bottom line is, a divorce has to occur before an annulment can occur, and when the annulment is granted, the message is, “We don’t like divorce, but in this case, it was appropriate.” No matter what arguments are made emphasizing the difference between divorce and annulment, that message remains. In granting so many annulments, the Church is saying that people are getting into bad marriages (read: “No sacramental bond was made”) and many of the divorces decried in the article could very well be eligible for an annulment. You can’t say divorce is a bad thing, and then ratify a divorce with an annulment, unless you are ready to admit that the real underlying problem may be poor pre-marital discernment. And if that is the problem, then that is where efforts at change should be made.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    The logic operating in the Church is often no different from that operating in the culture. Divorce creates a victim only if one of the parties objects — and then the victim is the individual attempting to press forward with the divorce! Similarly, we are all supposed to be sensitive to the difficulties of those seeking annulments within the Church because, obviously, they will want to marry again and we have no right to deny them this. This is insane. If Christian marriage really were a contract, then the party breaching the contract would be victimizing the other. But Christian marriage is so much greater than a contract — and yet many of our marriage tribunals treat it as something less!

    Lost in this nasty mess is any concern for — or even recognition of — the other parties to divorce and annulment: namely an unwilling spouse and children. Both are traumatized, and the behavior of those like the priest described in jmtfh’s comment serves only to belittle their suffering. This isn’t compassionate or loving behavior, but it is a path of low resistance because it allows priests and laity both to avoid standing within the culture as signs of contradiction.

  • My mother was divorced twice before I turned 18. I’m still in therapy. She never got an annulment but I can tell you that if she had it would have affected me deeply. It would have been the Church saying, “Your mother and father were never really married.” It would have piled on emotional conflict on top of emotional conflict and distress, and I don’t know how my young soul would have handled it. And by the way, Mom’s first divorce was under Arizona’s “no-fault” law in 1974. Divorce hurts kids, and annulments grind salt into the wounds. Will it ever stop?

  • As long as women can abort thier child, why not daddy also.

  • elkabrikir

    Thank you for this article that synthesizes much information, draws legitimate conclusions, and suggests a (partial) remedy.

    As the adult child of parents who divorced after 30 years of marriage, I can tell you that this child of divorced parents has been wounded in a place that can never be healed but with the balm of Grace.

    I can never discuss this with my mother because she considers HERSELF the primary victim. We kids weren’t a party to the “no fault” so we have no say. Having been married now for 23 years myself and given birth to 11 children, I can only imagine the graces my parens could have given me and my siblings by persevering to the end. A smashed mirror reflects nothing. Marriage mirrors the Image of God: the Trinity (into which all Christian marriages are incorporated.)

    Kudos to the former Mrs. Joseph Kennedy who refused to accept the annulment decision http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1853833/posts

    Many thanks to Pope Benedict XVI for investigating the maelstorm of annulments issued in the US.

    and

    Shame on you in the Catholic community, especially prominent people, who divorce, annul, remarry and expect the rest of us to shut up. And, if we don’t, WE’RE giving evidence of the “vindictive nature of right-wing Catholics”. (you know who you are).

    I know a woman who is divorced and has remarried after an annulment. She was away from her faith during the “divorce” period of her life. She has said what she did was a very great evil. Out of emense humility, she has voluntarily stepped back from any leadership positions within the church because of the potential for scandal. She is the most holy, prayerful person most people will ever meet. She knows divorce devastates all spouses, their children, and the Body of Christ.

    Abortion destroys the product of the one-flesh union while the purpose divorce is to destroy the one-flesh union itself. Indeed Satan knows what he’s doing. Therefore, we must be wiser than the fox. Discern what YOU are to do to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven.

    “Christ our King, Thy Kingdom come!”

  • janemartin

    My sincere sympahty goes to the woman married for 29 years and the best her husband could muster was that he “never really loved her”.

    It is so clear how we, as a society, have been deceived by what it means to be “happily married” and ” to be in love”. Having intense uncontrollable sexual attraction is the new “love” and one can only be happily married as long as that intense uncontrollable sexual attraction is maintained. Heaven help us.

    I know a situation where a young woman almost entered into marriage because she was sexually involved with her boyfriend. She knew premarital sex was wrong but she didn’t understand that chastity is beautiful and right. So her conclusion was “we better get married” not “we better stop this behavior immediately, seek reconcilation with God and discern what God is calling us to.” The boyfriend realized that sexual activity is no foundation to build a marriage on. Thankfully, gratefully, God was waiting to restore her via the Sacrament of Reconcilation when the gravity of her sinful choices and actions came into clear focus.

    From the other perspective… there are legitimate instances where divorce and annulment are the proper remedy. To suggest that the victim can only be the one that does not want the divorce is simplistic.

    I know another situation where one spouse so controlled the other emotionally that the wedding could best be described as coersion. There are people who prey on others weaknesses to get what they want then use the Church’s opposition to divorce as a weapon to beat their opponent, er, spouse into submission. Imagine the father of the bride sniggering and saying “She’s all yours sucker” to the groom as he “gives her away”. I have witnessed first hand people so disturbed that they are willing to use their child as a weapon, as long as they can inflict enough dammage, never mind what happens to the child in the process. You get the picture. Yes, the groom needs to take some responsibility for going through with it but not all 23 year olds are equipped to deal with sociopaths.

    I am thankful for the remedy the Church has for a situation in which both spouses did not come honestly into the marriage or are not capable of making the comittment because of undiagnosed mental incapacity.

    Having said that, I pray that my own children will discern God’s will and understand marriage as a vocation and a sacrament. I pray that they will, whether called to marriage vocation or not, understand the purpose and nature of sexual union and never consider uniting themselves to another outside of the marriage Sacrament. Even then, only God’s grace can make a marriage last “til death do us part” so I pray also for all spouses seek God’s grace together.

    Peace!

  • rakeys

    The united States has 6% of the world’s Catholics, but has 80% of the annulments.
    My wife and I have been teaching marriage prep for 25 years. Couples today know that they can get an annulment if things don’t work out. If annulments were not so readily available, couples would think twice about getting divorced, then try to get an annulment.
    The only reason that the Catholic Church allows divorce is because Jesus said, “What God has joined together let no man put asunder”. How can a tribunal know if God put this mariage together? Only the Pope is infallible. Jesus implied that marriage is forever, like the commitment he has for His church.
    No-fault divorce allows one person to get out of their marriage. The other spouse is stuck,cannot contest the divorce, and knowing that Jesus does not allow divorce, can never remarry. Jesus is not in favor of annulments.
    Read Hosea chapter 3 when God tells Hosea to go back to his adulterous wife, because his marriage is a witness to the love that God has for his sinful people.
    This teaching is not easy, but worth following.

  • dborer42

    Don,

    THIS daddy did no such thing. After 15 years of what by all accounts was a good, Catholic marriage, my wife had her head turned by another and threw it all away. I was forced into divorce with this evil, vile “no-fault” nonsense, and now am going through my wife’s attempts to force annulment on me and my four children as well.

    It is not always the husband who abandons his wife and children. Anymore, after hearing numerous accounts, I would say the wife doing the abandoning is not a rare thing, at all.

  • guitarmom

    dborer42–
    My sympathies to you. I wanted to let you know that I had a different take on Don’s comment. I thought he was saying that just as a woman may abort her child, she may also get rid of her husband. As I interpreted it, his comment was in complete support of you. Perhaps he’ll sign back on and let us know his meaning.

    As an adult child of divorce myself, I know too well how horrible divorce is. I recently heard an entire hour of a talk show host trying to justify his own divorce. He said that his now adult children are productive, happily married, and joyful adults. I suspect my own mother would describe me in that way. Yet the wounds from her divorcing my father will never go away. That talk show host was fooling himself if he thinks that his children were unharmed by their parents’ divorce.

  • Lucky Mom of 7

    I am also an adult child of divorced parents. The divorce wounded me deeply despite the fact that one of my parents is mentally ill and profoundly narcissistic. There is no way to have a healthy relationship with that parent. I think as a child, I was spared by the divorce. Living with the mentally ill parent would have meant constant danger on many levels. My parents’ marriage was also annulled. I think this was a just action, based prudent application on the criteria.

    Unfortunately both my parents went on to marry again and both re-entered dysfunctional relationships. There is nothing therapuetic about annullment. I don’t understand why the Church grants them so freely.

  • rememberCenturion

    Dear jmtfh [who posted May 18th, 2009 at 12:58 am]:

    You wrote: “We need something, some forum or program to help our children deal with the double whammy of divorce AND annulment!”

    You are correct, jmtfh. Sadly, few spouses being dragged through the no-fault divorce civil marriage/family abortion process — followed by the non-infallible annulment mill negation — have much strength left afterward to continue to fight for their children. Most simply leave the Catholic Church — or is it that the Church has left them? Children are left recoiling against a religious Tradition that purports to hold Marital love as a lifelong ideal yet abandons Sacramental Marriage as if it were no different than cohabitation!

    Children are not dupes. They see the hypocrisy of pastors, priests, and bishops.

    You may not be aware that you have options and support until you connect with like-minded Catholics, of which you will find few-to-none in your locale.

    Catholic Divorce Ministry [formerly North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics/ NACSDC] is endorsed by the USCCB and is not the organization that respects and upholds faithful Catholics who are committed to the Sacrament of Matrimony. They began in 1972 and are everywhere promoting exactly what your husband has perpetrated in mockery of your Sacrament. CDM holds meetings with the support of most Dioceses in the USA.

    Next month, The National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers will host its annual conference at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, MN from June 25-28. The NACFLM also embraces CDM.

    May I suggest that you try connecting with the website Mary’s Advocates and its sister/blog where you will find like-minded Catholics who are standing for their Sacrament of Marriage. An excellent Christian marriage support group is Rejoice Marriage Ministries, Inc.
    . I highly-recommend you subscribe to their free newsletter “Charlyne Cares.”

    St. Mary of Cana: I intercede for the children of jmtfh, that Jesus may keep them strong in Faith, and healthy in mind, body and spirit!

  • Mydaed

    It is a shame this site as many Catholic site has no Divorce section. There are millions of Catholic looking for answers. 

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