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As Divorce Rates Rise, Are No-Fault Divorce Laws To Blame?


August 2, 2007 — Most states have something called a no-fault divorce option. It's just like it sounds; it means that the state has adopted a no-fault law which does not require blame to be placed on one of the parties in order for a divorce to be granted. The no-fault option is helpful when a couple agrees that they both want out of a marriage fairly quickly, but there is no adultery or abuse involved. But does no-fault make it too easy to get a divorce?

The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy (IMAPP) has said that there is evidence to show that a no-fault divorce option increases the rate of divorce by anywhere from 5 to 30 percent.

The no-fault divorce laws were widely adopted by states in the 1970s. It's widely believed by legal scholars that divorce laws play no part in people's actions; however, the studies done by IMAPP contradict those beliefs. Divorce rates began to rise after 1960, so the no-fault law can not be entirely blamed for the escalation of divorce rates.

Between 1960 and 1980, the national divorce rate nearly doubled, but by 2004 the rate had gone down slightly.

Each state has its own set of divorce laws and they are all so different and sometimes contradictory that it can be difficult to know what to expect. Some states may deny couples a no-fault divorce if they have minor children, while other states may reduce the waiting time to allow quicker no-fault divorces.

New York does not have a no-fault option for divorce. The parties must testify against each other and blame must be established in order for a divorce to be granted without the one year waiting period. If neither party is really at fault, and the marriage is simply dead, they must file for legal separation first. After waiting for a year, they can then go back to court and ask that the marriage be dissolved.

The divorce laws in New York are under fire as many groups-including the New York Bar Association and the New York Women's Bar Association-are in favor of legislation being passed to give New York couples a no-fault divorce option when they clearly want out of the marriage. According to the IMAPP research, this would cause the New York divorce rate to rise.

Divorce is so commonplace and widely accepted in society now that there is rarely any surprise when a couple decides to split up. In a 2002 article in Family Process, clinical psychologist William M. Pinsof wrote, "By the end of the 20th century, divorce replaced death as the 'normal' endpoint of most marriages". That's a startling reality.

Studies have also shown that marriages are much happier when each party shares a reasonably equal amount of the housework, as well as when they husband and wife both earn about the same amount of money. When the balance is shifted so that one person makes most of the money and the other does most of the housework the marriages tend to be a lot more unhappy and divorce is more common.

So, in truth do the no-fault divorce options really increase the divorce rate, or are there too many factors involved in whether a couple stays together or divorces to really make that determination? While it's doubtful that a couple would decide to divorce simply because they can, no-fault divorce options certainly make the divorce process quicker and easier.

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