Is No Fault Divorce In The Cross-Hairs of Republicans?

No-Fault Divorce

It’s easy to get caught up in an “Us versus Them” mentality when discussing Democratic and Republican dogma.  But in a stunning series of Supreme Court decisions and public musings by justices, it is no longer an academic debate.  Our rights are under attack.

And now American Conservatives could be setting their sites on no-fault divorce, which allows spouses to end a marriage without proving wrongdoing by either party.

Here’s what you should know:

What is the history of no-fault divorce?

For most of American history, it was very difficult to get divorced. Before the Civil War, Alabama couples looking to dissolve their marriage would need to take their case to the state legislature and obtain a two-thirds majority in both houses.

Gov. Ronald Reagan of California, himself a divorcé, signed the country’s first no-fault divorce law in 1969. Before that, spouses seeking divorce generally had to prove adultery, abandonment, or cruelty, often resorting to perjury in order to obtain a divorce.

One by one, the other states followed California’s lead, with New York becoming the last state to adopt a no-fault divorce law in 2010.

Traditionalist conservatives argue that no-fault divorce has crushed the American family. In a 2021 op-ed for The Hill, Joseph Chamie noted that married couples now make up a minority of American households and that the proportion of children born to unwed mothers has doubled since 1980.

Others claim that no-fault divorce has been a net positive, especially for women. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, “there was a large decline” — usually around 20 percent — “in the number of women committing suicide following the introduction of unilateral divorce.” Rates of domestic violence also dropped.


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