Tag Archives: No-Fault Divorce

Stephen Baskerville: five myths about no-fault divorce

From the Catholic News Agency.

Introduction:

Almost four decades after the “no-fault” divorce revolution began in California, misconceptions abound. Even the many books about divorce, including myriad self-help manuals, are full of inaccurate and misleading information. No public debate preceded the introduction of no-fault divorce laws in the 1970s, and no debate has taken place since.

Yet divorce-on-demand is exacting a devastating toll on our children, our social order, our economy, and even our constitutional rights. A recent study estimates the financial cost of divorce to taxpayers at $112 billion annually. Recent demands to legitimize same-sex marriage almost certainly follow from the divorce revolution, since gay activists readily acknowledge that they only desire to marry under the loosened terms that have resulted from the new divorce laws. Divorce also contributes to a dangerous increase in the power of the state over private life.

Here are the five myths about no-fault divorce:

  • No-fault divorce permitted divorce by mutual consent, thus making divorce less acrimonious
  • We cannot force people to remain married and should not try
  • No-fault divorce has led men to abandon their wives and children
  • When couples cannot agree or cooperate about matters like how the children should be raised, a judge must decide according to “the best interest of the child”
  • Divorce must be made easy because of domestic violence

And the details about number three:

Myth 3: No-fault divorce has led men to abandon their wives and children.

Fact: This does happen (wives more often than children), but it is greatly exaggerated. The vast majority of no-fault divorces — especially those involving children — are filed by wives. In fact, as Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows, has shown, the no-fault revolution was engineered largely by feminist lawyers, with the cooperation of the bar associations, as part of the sexual revolution. Overwhelmingly, it has served to separate large numbers of children from their fathers. Sometimes the genders are reversed, so that fathers take children from mothers. But either way, the main effect of no-fault is to make children weapons and pawns to gain power through the courts, not the “abandonment” of them by either parent.

Al Mohler wrote about the history of no-fault divorce a while back, and I think it’s worth reviewing why we have this lousy law.

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.”

And note that Democrats oppose any effort to reform laws that make it easy to break up marriages:

A basic dishonesty on the question of divorce pervades our political culture. Baskerville cites Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm as referring to divorce as a couple’s “private decision.” Granholm’s comments came as she vetoed a bill intended to reform divorce law in her state. The danger and dishonesty of referring to divorce as a couple’s “private decision” is evident in the fact that this supposedly private decision imposes a reality, not only on the couple, but also on children and the larger society. Indeed, the “private decision” is really not made by a couple at all–but only by any spouse demanding a divorce.

So, no-fault was pushed by two groups: feminists and trial lawyers.

There’s a lot of talk these days about gay marriage and how it undermines marital norms and normalizes raising children without either their biological father or biological mother. But before there was gay marriage, there was no-fault divorce, which deprives children of their biological father. There is no provision for no-fault divorce in the Bible, so it seems to me that Christians should be against frivolous divorce just like we are against same-sex marriage.

Why is it so hard to get married these days?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

A long, long time ago when I was in my “read one or two books about everything important” phase, I remember coming to marriage and picking out two books to read on that. The first was the Judith Wallerstein study on “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce”, which talked about children’s experience of divorce over the 25-year period following their parent’s decision to divorce. The second was F. Carolyn Graglia’s book “Domestic Tranquility”.

I found an essay about the latter book that seems to be either the introduction or chapter one. I just thought I would share it here to clear up why people are not getting married as much as they used to.

Let’s see how it happened:

Since the late 1960s, feminists have very successfully waged war against the traditional family, in which husbands are the principal breadwinners and wives are primarily homemakers. This war’s immediate purpose has been to undermine the homemaker’s position within both her family and society in order to drive her into the work force. Its long-term goal is to create a society in which women behave as much like men as possible, devoting as much time and energy to the pursuit of a career as men do, so that women will eventually hold equal political and economic power with men. This book examines feminism’s successful onslaught against the traditional family, considers the possible ramifications of that success, and defends a woman’s choice to be a homemaker. Feminists have used a variety of methods to achieve their goal. They have promoted a sexual revolution that encouraged women to mimic male sexual promiscuity. They have supported the enactment of no-fault divorce laws that have undermined housewives’ social and economic security. And they obtained the application of affirmative action requirements to women as a class, gaining educational and job preferences for women and undermining the ability of men who are victimized by this discrimination to function as family breadwinners.

Sexual promiscuity, no-fault divorce laws and affirmative action laws that discriminate against male providers, were the goals of radical feminists. There may have been some men who went along with these things, but the main force behind it was radical feminism.

We continue:

Certainly, feminism is not alone responsible for our families’ sufferings. As Charles Murray details in Losing Ground,[1] President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, for example, have often hurt families, particularly black families, and these programs were supported by a large constituency beyond the women’s movement. What distinguishes the women’s movement, however, is the fact that, despite the pro-family motives it sometimes ascribes to itself, it has actively sought the traditional family’s destruction. In its avowed aims and the programs it promotes, the movement has adopted Kate Millett’s goal, set forth in her Sexual Politics, in which she endorses Friedrich Engels’s conclusion that “the family, as that term is presently understood, must go”; “a kind fate,” she remarks, in “view of the institution’s history.[2] This goal has never changed: feminists view traditional nuclear families as inconsistent with feminism’s commitment to women’s independence and sexual freedom.[3]

To counter radical feminism, women should be reading books that offer a serious, scholarly defense to feminism (e.g. – Christina Hoff Sommers, Carrie Lukas, F. Carolyn Graglia, etc.). You can tell whether a woman is a feminist based on how brittle she is with the idea that women have certain roles like wife and mother. Another good indicator is whether she is comfortable with the idea that relationships require each person to have certain responsibilities and obligations to the other that override their desire for happiness. Everyone in a relationship has responsibilities and obligations to the other person. For example, with few exceptions, a man ought to get up and go to work to support his family, just as the woman, with few exceptions, should try to keep fit and be available for her husband sexually. Feelings and desires should not override responsibilities and obligations in a relationship.

More:

Emerging as a revitalized movement in the 1960s, feminism reflected women’s social discontent, which had arisen in response to the decline of the male breadwinner ethic and to the perception — heralded in Philip Wylie’s 1940s castigation of the evil “mom”[4] — that Western society does not value highly the roles of wife and mother. Women’s dissatisfactions, nevertheless, have often been aggravated rather than alleviated by the feminist reaction. To mitigate their discontent, feminists argued, women should pattern their lives after men’s, engaging in casual sexual intercourse on the same terms as sexually predatory males and making the same career commitments as men. In pursuit of these objectives, feminists have fought unceasingly for the ready availability of legal abortion and consistently derogated both motherhood and the worth of fulltime homemakers.

[…]Contemporary feminism has been remarkably successful in bringing about the institutionalization in our society of the two beliefs underlying its offensive: denial of the social worth of traditional homemakers and rejection of traditional sexual morality. The consequences have been pernicious and enduring. General societal assent to these beliefs has profoundly distorted men’s perceptions of their relationships with and obligations to women, women’s perceptions of their own needs, and the way in which women make decisions about their lives.

Read the rest, it’s a good introduction to the book.

So how have men responded to the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce? Well, most non-Christian men are going to take the free sex that’s being offered to them, and back away from a life-long commitment to protect and provide. Even a number of “Christian” men are now finding it easy to work premarital sex into their relationships, something that would have been unthinkable to Bible-believers of earlier generations. Also, a woman who has a lot of premarital sexual experience is a red flag to most men – they worry that she will not be able to be faithful to them since she is already accustomed to recreational sex rather than married sex within a covenant. Premarital sex generally makes women less trusting, less vulnerable and less capable at being feminine in order to love a man. Research shows that the more premarital sex partners a woman has, the more unstable her marriage becomes. This is also true for men, but the effect is slightly less for men. It’s definitely something that has to be worked through, because it’s a risk factor for relationship instability.

If you ask any man today about what is holding him up from getting married, the first thing he will tell you is no-fault divorce laws. Whereas women may shy away from marriage because they are worried about being unhappy or losing their freedom, men have a much, much more pressing danger in mind – the danger of having your entire life savings wiped out in an instant. And that’s not to mention the prospect of only being able to see your kids for a few hours every month if you don’t get joint custody – which is the vast majority of cases (about 90%).

Study: fathers are important for the development of children’s brains

Fathers and children
Fathers and children

The study was reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Dr. Braun’s group found that at 21 days, the fatherless animals had less dense dendritic spines compared to animals raised by both parents, though they “caught up” by day 90. However, the length of some types of dendrites was significantly shorter in some parts of the brain, even in adulthood, in fatherless animals.

“It just shows that parents are leaving footprints on the brain of their kids,” says Dr. Braun, 54 years old.

The neuronal differences were observed in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is related to emotional responses and fear, and the orbitofrontal cortex, or OFC, the brain’s decision-making center.

[…]The balance between these two brain parts is critical to normal emotional and cognitive functioning, according to Dr. Braun. If the OFC isn’t active, the amygdala “goes crazy, like a horse without a rider,” she says. In the case of the fatherless pups, there were fewer dendritic spines in the OFC, while the dendrite trees in the amygdala grew more and longer branches.

A preliminary analysis of the degus’ behavior showed that fatherless animals seemed to have a lack of impulse control, Dr. Braun says. And, when they played with siblings, they engaged in more play-fighting or aggressive behavior.

In a separate study in Dr. Braun’s lab conducted by post-doctoral researcher Joerg Bock, degu pups were removed from their caregivers for one hour a day. Just this small amount of stress leads the pups to exhibit more hyperactive behaviors and less focused attention, compared to those who aren’t separated, Dr. Braun says. They also exhibit changes in their brain.

The basic wiring between the brain regions in the degus is the same as in humans, and the nerve cells are identical in their function. “So on that level we can assume that what happens in the animal’s brain when it’s raised in an impoverished environment … should be very similar to what happens in our children’s brain,” Dr. Braun says.

Read the whole thing.

I think this is important because we hear so much today that marriage can be redefined, that having one of each parent doesn’t matter, that live-in boyfriends and stepfathers have the same motivation to care for a woman’s children as the biological father does. We don’t want to make judgments, even if setting boundaries is better for children. A child’s well-being is enormously affected by the woman’s choice of biological father.  You can’t have it both ways – either we are going to judge women who choose men who don’t have the desire to commit to marriage, and do the father role, OR we are going to take things away from children by encouraging women to choose men based on “feelings” instead of abilities. Lowering moral standards and removing moral obligations hurts children. It sounds so nice when we tell women, “you can do whatever you feel like, and just forget about responsibilities, expectations and obligations”, but letting women be guided by their feelings harms children. My stock broker makes me feel uncomfortable because he knows more than I do, and does not respect my opinion. But I pay him to make investment decisions for me. I mustn’t let my pride get in the way of letting him do his job – a job he is more qualified than I am to do. Let him do his job.

Here’s a related question: Are biological fathers or unrelated men more dangerous for children?

This article from the Weekly Standard answers the question.

Excerpt:

A March 1996 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics contains some interesting findings that indicate just how widespread the problem may be. In a nationally representative survey of state prisoners jailed for assaults against or murders of children, fully one-half of respondents reported the victim was a friend, acquaintance, or relative other than offspring. (All but 3 percent of those who committed violent crimes against children were men.) A close relationship between victim and victimizer is also suggested by the fact that three-quarters of all the crimes occurred in either the perpetrator’s home or the victim’s.

A 1994 paper published in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies looked at 32,000 documented cases of child abuse. Of the victims, only 28 percent lived with both biological parents (far fewer than the 68 percent of all children who live with both parents); 44 percent lived with their mother only (as do 25 percent of all children); and 18 percent lived with their mother and an unrelated adult (double the 9 percent of all children who live with their mother and an unrelated adult).

These findings mirror a 1993 British study by the Family Education Trust, which meticulously explored the relationship between family structure and child abuse. Using data on documented cases of abuse in Britain between 1982 and 1988, the report found a high correlation between child abuse and the marital status of the parents.

Specifically, the British study found that the incidence of abuse was an astounding 33 times higher in homes where the mother was cohabiting with an unrelated boyfriend than in stable nuclear families. Even when the boyfriend was the children’s biological father, the chances of abuse were twice as high.

These findings are consonant with those published a year earlier by Leslie Margolin of the University of Iowa in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect. Prof. Margolin found that boyfriends were 27 times more likely than natural parents to abuse a child. The next-riskiest group, siblings, were only twice as likely as parents to abuse a child.

More recently, a report by Dr. Michael Stiffman presented at the latest meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in October, studied the 175 Missouri children under the age of 5 who were murdered between 1992 and 1994. It found that the risk of a child’s dying at the hands of an adult living in the child’s own household was eight times higher if the adult was biologically unrelated.

The Heritage Foundation’s Patrick Fagan discovered that the number of child-abuse cases appeared to rise in the 1980s along with the general societal acceptance of cohabitation before, or instead of, marriage. That runs counter to the radical-feminist view, which holds that marriage is an oppressive male institution of which violence is an integral feature. If that were true, then child abuse and domestic violence should have decreased along with the rise in cohabitation.

Heritage also found that in the case of very poor children (those in households earning less than $ 15,000 per year), 75 percent lived in a household where the biological father was absent. And 50 percent of adults with less than a high-school education lived in cohabitation arrangements. “This mix — poverty, lack of education, children, and cohabitation — is an incubator for violence,” Fagan says.

Why, then, do we ignore the problem? Fagan has a theory: “It is extremely politically incorrect to suggest that living together might not be the best living arrangement.”

The moral of the story is that it is a lot safer for children if we promote marriage as a way of attaching mothers and fathers to their children. Fathers who have a biological connection to children are a lot less likely to harm them. We should probably be teaching women to choose men who have a certain tenderness towards people they mentor or nurture, as well. These things are not free, you have to persuade women to value the male tendency to want to lead / guide / mentor. A lot of social problems like child poverty, promiscuity and violence cannot be solved by replacing a father with a check from the government. We need to support fathers by empowering them in their traditional roles. Let the men lead. Swallow your feminist instincts, and prefer men who take seriously their role of leading others upward.

The first redefinition of marriage was much worse for children than same-sex marriage

% of Marriages Remaining Intact
% of Marriages Remaining Intact

I am speaking about no-fault divorce, of course.  Let’s take a look at it with a few articles.

First, let’s take a look at what Jesus says about divorce.

Matthew 19:1-9:

1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.

2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

I’ll just link to one study to prove divorce is bad, but everyone knows that.

Now, let Theologian and cultural analyst Al Mohler explain how we got no-fault (unilateral) divorce:

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.”

In many cases, the reality is even worse. In effect, no-fault divorce means that the courts now assist the violator of marriage vows. Any spouse can now demand a divorce for any reason and be assured that the courts will award the divorce–and will often grant disproportionate favor to the party seeking the divorce.

As Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows, argues, no-fault divorce means that legislators created an “automatic outcome” in issues of divorce. “A defendant is automatically found ‘guilty’ of irreconcilable differences and is not allowed a defense,” Parejko notes.

Researcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of the influential book, The Divorce Culture, points to the therapeutic seduction of the culture as a contributing factor. “According to therapeutic precepts,” she explains, “the fault for marital breakup must be shared, even when one spouse unilaterally seeks a divorce.”

In other words, no-fault divorce laws actually assume that both parties are equally at fault, since no party could be innocent. The perverse assumption inherent in this argument is that if any individual is unhappy, someone else must necessarily be at fault. Once no-fault divorce became a reality, spouses found themselves simply informed of the fact that their marriage was effectively over. Many of these spouses were not even aware that the marriage was in trouble–and trouble is not even necessary.

Why did all this happen? How could an institution as fundamental and basic as marriage become transformed in less than a decade’s time? Baskerville insists that no-fault divorce laws were not demanded by the public. “No popular clamor to dispense with divorce restrictions preceded their passage; no public outrage at any perceived injustice provided the impetus; no public debate was ever held in the media.” As Baskerville summarizes: “In retrospect, these laws can be seen as one of the boldest social experiments in history. The result effectively abolished marriage as a legal contract. As a result, it’s no longer possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.”

No-fault divorce is worse than same-sex marriage, and there is almost no support among Christians for taking it on, although my view is that both no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage need to be repealed. I don’t know how we are going to fix this unless Christians start to get serious about marrying well, and for the long-term. But more is needed – we have to make it harder for people to get divorced, and harder for people to get money from the government just for having children outside of marriage. We have to shame behaviors that harm children, and shrink government so that men become more indispensable, and staying married becomes more important to women. (over two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women)

And (in response to a comment below) we should be showing young people the benefits of getting married and staying married – not just for children, but for society as a whole. That’s especially true for young Christians in church – in my experience, the men often don’t see marriage as an exciting enterprise that could make a difference for Christ, and the women often think of marriage as something boring to put off for as long as possible. I think one of the great ways of evangelizing the culture is showing them a romantic marriage, a home that is warm and welcoming, and happy, healthy children who are respectful and hard-working.

You can read more in this article about no-fault divorce by Dr. Stephen Baskerville. (The Baskerville that Mohler mentioned)

He covers 5 myths about no-fault divorce:

  1. No-fault divorce permitted divorce by mutual consent, thus making divorce less acrimonious
  2. We cannot force people to remain married and should not try
  3. No-fault divorce has led men to abandon their wives and children
  4. When couples cannot agree or cooperate about matters like how the children should be raised, a judge must decide according to “the best interest of the child”
  5. Divorce must be made easy because of domestic violence

I hope this clears up the false charge that people who oppose same-sex marriage do so only because of animus towards homosexuals. There are many reasons to oppose same-sex marriage – religious liberty concerns, concerns about the needs of children, public health concerns, and so on. But social conservatives like me are consistent. We oppose no-fault divorce because it harms children, and we oppose unrestricted welfare for single mothers for the same reason, because it pays people to have fatherless children. There are reasons for socially conservative views, it’s not just “dislike”. Only someone who has never been presented with conservative views by conservative scholars would think such things. But that’s what happens to students in universities – it’s just indoctrination.

The global shift away from marriage and child-bearing

Nicholas Eberstadt explains what’s happening to marriage and parenting, in this Wall Street Journal article.

I just want to pull out the parts that seem interesting.

Why is it happening?

All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy. We can think of this as another triumph of consumer sovereignty, which has at last brought rational choice and elective affinities into a bastion heretofore governed by traditions and duties—many of them onerous. Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth.

People are rejecting responsibilities, expectations, and obligations because they are selfish.

When he talks about Europe, he offers an explanation for this:

Now consider Europe, where the revolution in the family has gained still more ground. European demographers even have an elegant name for the phenomenon: They call it the Second Demographic Transition (the First being the shift from high birth rates and death rates to low ones that began in Europe in the early industrial era and by now encompasses almost every society). In the schema of the Second Demographic Transition, long, stable marriages are out, and divorce or separation are in, along with serial cohabitation and increasingly contingent liaisons. Not surprisingly, this new environment of perennially conditional, no-fault unions was also seen as ushering in an era of more or less permanent sub-replacement fertility.

According to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, the probability of marriage before age 50 has been plummeting for European women and men, while the chance of divorce for those who do marry has been soaring. In Belgium—the birth-land of the scholars who initially detected this Second Transition—the likelihood of a first marriage for a woman of reproductive age is now down to 40%, and the likelihood of divorce is over 50%. This means that in Belgium the odds of getting married and staying married are under one in five. A number of other European countries have similar or even lower odds.

Europe has also seen a surge in “child-free” adults—voluntary childlessness. The proportion of childless 40-something women is one in five for Sweden and Switzerland, and one in four for Italy. In Berlin and in the German city-state of Hamburg, it’s nearly one in three, and rising swiftly. Europe’s most rapidly growing family type is the one-person household: the home not only child-free, but partner- and relative-free as well. In Western Europe, nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%. The rise of the one-person home coincides with population aging. But it is not primarily driven by the graying of European society, at least thus far: Over twice as many Danes under 65 are living alone as those over 65.

“Perenially conditional, no-fault unions”. That means that either party can leave at any time, for any reason.

Who is hurt most when marital stability declines?

Kids:

Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes also have unintended consequences. The deleterious impact on the hardly inconsequential numbers of children disadvantaged by the flight from the family is already plain enough. So too the damaging role of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in exacerbating income disparities and wealth gaps—for society as a whole, but especially for children. Yes, children are resilient and all that. But the flight from family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young.

And the elderly:

That same flight also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old. With America’s baby boomers reaching retirement, and a world-wide “gray wave” around the corner, we are about to learn the meaning of those implications firsthand.

In the decades ahead, ever more care and support for seniors will be required, especially for the growing contingent among the elderly who will be victims of dementia, or are childless and socially isolated. Remember, a longevity revolution is also under way. Yet by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing, to provide that care and support than ever before.

I did a quick search for pro-marriage policies and came across an article from USA Today. The author wanted to bash a legislator’s pro-marriage ideas, and to do that she found a single mother to quote who disagrees with pro-marriage policies.

Look:

Indianapolis mother Amanda Louden, 46, has seen parenthood from both married and unmarried standpoints.

She had three sons with her former husband, deciding to marry to be traditional about it and for the convenience of everyone having the same last name. Louden later divorced her husband and had another son with her then-boyfriend.

And she says she doesn’t think marriage made that much of a difference in raising her children.

“It’s really an oversimplification to say that single parenting is bad,” Louden said. “Intact families where both parents are involved in their children’s lives, that’s good. I’m in favor of that. But let’s not demonize families that don’t have that. It’s demonizing people who are doing whatever they can.”

The father of her youngest son didn’t seem ready or interested in a live-in family role, she said. He became less involved and eventually stopped visiting.

Louden is now raising four sons on her own as a single mother. She disagrees that children with married parents are somehow automatically “better” than hers.

If we are serious about marriage, we are going to have to change attitudes like that. We have to get used to responding to people who say that marriage doesn’t matter with real, peer-reviewed evidence. Broken families arise when people think that there are no best practices that should affect their decision making beyond “follow your heart”. Following your heart get no disapproval at all from the culture. Young people often don’t have friends who will challenge them when they are about to make a bad decision. Young people will often seek out peers who agree with them, and avoid parents and other responsible adults who disagree. Peer-approval – that’s how disasters happen. The only way to stop people from messing up their lives is to tell them before they mess up their lives – and that means breaking through “follow your heart” as gently and effectively as possible.

One reason why so many marriages break up is recreational premarital sex.

CNS News explains:

The seeds of this sexual maturity are sown in early childhood, when a child’s married parents model faithful love of each other, guide him or her through modesty to a criteria of selecting a spouse and courting the right young man or woman, eventually leading to marriage and a family of their own. Without this guidance—without married parents who have modeled a healthy, monogamous relationship since the child’s birth—children generally get lost in pre-marital sex, leading to multiple sexual partners before marriage, in turn leading most into cohabitation and later divorce or permanent single parenthood. The culture has lost its sense of sexual morality.

[…][M]ost people do want marriage for themselves and for society; unfortunately, most have severed the connection between premarital chastity and later marriage stability, not knowing that the more sexual partners before marriage the greater the likelihood of divorce.  Ninety-five percent of those whose only sexual partner ever is their spouse are still in their first marriage after five years. This figure drops to 62 percent for women who had one sexual partner other than their husband (before they married), and drops down further to 50 percent for those who had two such sexual partners before marrying their husband.

Therefore, if the nation wants stable marriage, we first must reinvest in shepherding youth to be chaste.  This has become more and more difficult for parents as the sexual principles of radical feminism and sexual autonomy pervades our courts, schools, colleges and media, and sadly, even to some extent in our churches.

Yes, in our churches.

But there’s more to restoring marriage than just confrontation at the one-on-one level. From a policy point of view, we should be voting for policies that promote marriage and child-bearing within marriage. I think we should be giving rewards to married couples who stay together and have children, not to people who want to try any other crazy arrangement that isn’t as good for kids. Not every association of people is as stable and healthy as marriage, and the government shouldn’t be treating these alternatives as we treat the real thing.

You can look over a list of pro-marriage policy ideas here.