Stephen Baskerville: five myths about no-fault divorce

From the Catholic News Agency.


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. Christians rolled over for it because we thought we fell for the myths that no-fault divorce was “compassionate”. That was a mistake, and one we need to roll back. (By the way, that’s not a bad post by Al Mohler. I pick on him for having his head stuck in the Bible, but it looks like he has a comprehensive view of marriage)

The reason I am writing about this is because of a post by Dr. Jerry Walls (H/T First Things) where he said that people who are opposed to gay marriage tend to say nothing at all against premarital sex and no-fault divorce. Well, I am against gay marriage and I am also personally a virgin and I would repeal premarital sex promotion in the schools and no-fault divorce in the courts if I could. And in fact regular readers know that I am always blogging about the damage caused by divorce and the damage caused by premarital sex, usually with study after study to support my views. I don’t just say “the Bible says” and expect that to transform a culture that is largely indifferent or even hostile to what the Bible says.

I think that Christians need to become experts on everything from the fine-tuning of the cosmological constant to no-fault divorce to the Laffer curve to undesigned coincidences in the New Testament sources to WMD development and proliferation in rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. The more people regard Christians as intelligent, informed and circumspect, the more people will be curious about the gospel. We have to know everything about everything and we have to be concerned about every conflict between Christian convictions and what’s happening in the world. Studying the way the world works is one way of serving God and defending his honor with people who want to dismiss him, and dismiss their obligations to him.

6 thoughts on “Stephen Baskerville: five myths about no-fault divorce”

  1. i’ve said elsewhere that christianity lacks influence today because:

    1. we’ve got competition from the secular world in performin good deeds as the apostles urged us in their letters (good deeds in my view is primarily charitable deeds). the secular world is fast performing these things better than christians are. they have “taken it from us”, so to speak.

    2. obviously we can’t ignore the fact that our society champions the Emersonian framework, the individual, to the neglect of society and community at large.

    3. and people today are distracted by entertainment and consumerism, thinking their lives consist in the abundance of their possessions and worldly pleasures.

    although i think it would be refreshing that christians become more knowledgeable about many things, i think mere knowledge will fall on deaf ears unless we can start walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. we need to have both knowledge as well as an abundance of good deeds being performed by the church, but without the good deeds, our knowledge will appear to puff us up in the eyes of secular society. we need to be bearers of Gods kingdom.

    this implies that a lot of things need to be corrected in our churches before we can ever hope to regain credibility in secular society. christians have to stop being just “sunday christians”. if you’re going to be a christian, you need to get your hands dirty and get involved in as many activities and events that the church organises to do good and charitable deeds.

    this is a long comment so… my apologies. but it required some space to make my point.

    much blessings, keep up the good work with your blog.



  2. Baskerville is right on. No-fault divorce has turned the universe upside-down.

    I have come full circle on my understanding of the evils of contraception. This is another vital link in the sexual revolution that the feminist, Freudian, sexual libertine God-haters have used to push their agenda. It all results in the utmost of misery, and always it’s the most vulnerable and innocent who have their lives shattered or snuffed out.

    I’m a Protestant, but I always see that’s it’s the Orthodox and serious Catholics that have understood and stood firm on all these human life issues. The Protestants often seem initially so confused and only come around to the Orthodox understanding long after immense damage has been done.

    –Wm Brown MD

    Forest, VA


  3. I’ve written on this myself. Marriage took its biggest hits from legalized contraception (especially in the form of abortifacients), “free love” (premarital sex), and no-fault divorce long before the nation decided to redefine marriage into something else in the last few years.

    On the “Myth #3” issue, in 1980 the ratio of men divorcing their wives to women divorcing their husbands was about 600:1. For every 1 woman who divorced her husband, 600 men divorced their wives. In 1990 — just 10 years — that ratio was 12:1 in reverse. In addition, the numbers of women divorcing their husbands and leaving their children has skyrocketed. In one place I worked 5 guys were simultaneously going through divorces. ALL 5 wives were divorcing their husbands and ALL 5 wives were abandoning their children.

    It’s sad that someone had to write a piece about the 5 myths because the populace in general is so ignorant.


  4. I agree about the mass ignorance. It’s seems clear that the major cultural institutions (media, entertainment, universities, government, news, etc.) have all worked together to brainwash the populace to solidify and cement the feminist ideology (religion). The forces of PC think (Orwell was prescient for sure) are extremely powerful. You risk your job, income, friends, and family if you have the courage to speak outside of the current PC code.

    Abortion, marginalization of true believers in God, the normalization of sexual depravity, massive dumbing down of education – it all works together. Peter Kreeft wrote an astounding article for “Inside Catholic” years ago, making the case that sexual depravity, abortion, and the eradication of a true liberal education are vitally linked.

    Contraception, while a symptom of a deep evil in the hear of man, was the beginning of so much of the family dysfunction that we have today. It’s just that so few have drawn the connections. And, so sadly, most of the Protestant Church not only went along with the evil, but actually promoted it.

    –Wm. Brown MD
    Forest, VA


    1. I am actually OK with contraception of some sort for married couples, but not for unmarried people. That’s my opinion. What I would do to achieve that is just stop giving it away for free and instead put a large consumption tax on it, with the proceeds going to married couples who adopt. I would also cut off all subsidies for abortion and regulate clinics so that they could not make a profit from terminating pregnancies. Once the money dries up, people adjust.


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