Thursday, June 17, 2010

No Fault?

New York is considering a unilateral no-fault divorce law. This law essentially eviscerates the contract of marriage before law, and should be fought by Christian conservatives more vociferously than gay-marriage laws. A thoughtful review of the issues by Stephanie Coontz is posted on NYTimes.

Bilateral no-fault divorce will always occur. Coontz discusses how cooperating couples can easily work around any law requiring fault. While no-fault divorce is unacceptable in orthodox Christianity, it is unavoidable in a tolerant society. New York's current system is healthy: a no-fault divorce requires a signed separation agreement, 1 year, and mutual consent.

Unilateral no-fault divorce is another story. In a unilateral no-fault, one spouse decides to abort the marriage over the objections of the other spouse. Unlike the bilateral case, it essentially involves one party seeking to break the contract of marriage despite no breach by the other party. This is monumentally unfair to the faithful partner, especially if he or she gave up other avenues of advancement to invest in what has been called "marriage capital". It gives a legal thumbs up to abandonment and strips the legal commitment of marriage of meaning.

A better alternative to the proposed law would be a unilateral divorce in which the abandoning party rescinds any claim to jointly held assets. That is, the house, bank accounts, cars, and any belongings normally subject to division would instead go to the faithful spouse. All outstanding debts would follow the divorcer. Thus, the law would enforce the contractual nature of marriage by making default costly. This would buttress the existing child-support system to enforce at least financial responsibility on spouses who do not take their commitments seriously.

Christians, this is your political battlefront. This already passed the Senate and is headed for the Assembly. Write your representative, and let him or her know that you want the state to respect marriage contracts.

1 comment:

Chops said...

My email to Rep Gantt:

Dear Assemblyman Gantt,

As you know, a few bills seeking to enact unilateral no-fault divorce may soon come before the New York Assembly. Please vote against any bill that allows one spouse to unilaterally dissolve the marriage contract. Such laws strip protection from women who have given up career opportunities for the sake of family. Such laws reward adulterous partners, who can legally claim divorce for mere "irreconcilable differences", deny adultery, and walk away with a large share of the family's assets.

City neighborhoods, like mine in the 133rd District, are aching for committed marriages and strong families to raise up young men and women well. Please represent us in Albany by helping to protect those marriages.