What’s the big rush to get divorced?

In the 2012 session, the Utah Legislature took a welcome baby step toward restoring moral seriousness to the state’s treatment of divorce by restoring the (very short) 90-day waiting period before filing and finalization.

At the other end of the country (in more ways than one), New York formally acquiesced to the divorce revolution in 2010, becoming the last state to adopt no-fault divorce. A recent Wall Street Journal article describes a small but significant wrinkle in the implementation of the change. It seems that some judges actually apply the law as it’s written and this is, to some, a problem. Specifically, “a handful of judges have interpreted the law differently, calling for trials to determine whether the marriage is ‘irretrievably broken.’” This has led one legislator to propose legislation “that would ban jury trials in no-fault divorce cases.”

Why the uproar over judges doing what seems reasonable? The law says a divorce can be granted if a marriage relationship “has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months.” How would a court know that this has happened without some kind of inquiry? 

According to some lawyers cited by the Journal, the legislature should have been more explicit in endorsing “the generally understood definition of no-fault divorce: If one spouse wants to dissolve the marriage, it should be dissolved.” As one prominentNew Jersey attorney (who said she is “horrified” by the idea of courts examining the grounds for divorce) says: “It only takes one person to believe it’s a broken marriage.”

The obvious injustice here is noted by an adjunct law professor quoted in the story: “I think there would be problems if you’re leaving the court in a position of having to make a finding of fact, which is presumably based on evidence, and then saying only one side gets to be heard.” He notes this is “a fundamental violation of due process.”

It should be a source of discomfort for us to think that our laws are designed to perpetrate an injustice.

A hard look at the situation in New York, which has been largely institutionalized in Utah, should motivate the state to continue down the path of reform to strengthen marriage.

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  • good2meet

    50% of same sex marriages end in divorce. So there is a reason America is declining. You just cannot trust ANYONE,

  • Rick in Douglas County, CO

    My parents were at the front of the divorce boom that started in the 1960’s, which I think was both cause and then effect of no-fault divorce. I agree no waiting period is in all senses of the word “hasty”, and would also propose a three month waiting period to get married. That said, do you really want the government and the court system in particular calling the shots on your personal life? A better solution for society might be actual enforcement of divorce decree settlements, particularly child support. The federal government does a minimal job, but many states do almost nothing (low taxes being more popular than enforcement resources). Another solution is some holding off on the religious, societal, and especially parental pressure on young people to get married and start a family (especially if they’re gay).
    As to the perfect world without divorce, I’ll refer to Victorian London. There are census figures showing several hundred thousand prostitutes in the 1880’s, and good information on, err, their “rates of business”. Simple math indicates every man in London visited a prostitute over 2 times per week. With all due respect, polygamy was another “answer”.
    Divorce is tragic, but I cannot help but think it short-circuits a lot of lying, domestic violence, alcoholism, depression, and occasionally, murder. I suspect those who say the divorce rate shows “America is declining” are those with wonderful spouses or with regrets they stayed in a joyless marriage til they were too old to get out.
    Another suggestion – made possible by effective birth control – is make sure you’re compatible before marrying. I got over my squeamishness and strongly suggested to both my son and daughter that they have sufficient sex with sufficient partners before signing up for a lifetime commitment, advice I stand by today.

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