Divorce laws create and reflect the reality of marriage. Where obtaining a divorce is difficult or impossible, marriage is seen as a durable, close-knit community, and small inconveniences can be forgotten or tolerated. When divorce is easy to secure, marriage partners tend to think of themselves as individuals first before marriage partners, and marriages can easily end.
The US states initially adopted A The idea of divorce based on faultWhere the spouse can initiate divorce proceedings only when he can prove that the other spouse has committed some wrongdoing such as adultery, desertion or extreme cruelty. Over time, states have expanded the basis for fault-based claims. Thus, the divorce system in America remained in place until the early 1970s, when eventually all states, after California, adopted no-fault and voluntarily divorce laws. These laws allow either party to leave the marriage for any reason or no reason at all. This bold change in policy, disguised as a bureaucratic overhaul, ended the idea of marriage as an enforceable contract.
The number of divorces rose. Destabilizing marriage has made marriage less attractive — and marriage rates have done just that dropped From 72% before the reforms to less than 50% in 2022. Commentators find it increasingly difficult to talk about the tragedy of divorce as the number of divorcees increases. poverty And suicide And increased for the children of divorce, as he did depression, Take drugsAnd a crime.
When the no-fault system was adopted, most were concerned that men would run off with younger women. Marriage was thought to stabilize or civilize men, and many were concerned that a destabilizing marriage would further destabilize men. The default rules are set in place to discourage men from thoughtlessly breaking the bonds of marriage. To the surprise of many, it turned out to be women File for the majority of divorce cases In every country that He has no faultless divorce. In general, women offer approx 70% Divorces in America.
Some advocates of divorce celebrate the initiative of the wife as an expression of women’s empowerment. Women are often victims of intimate partner violence, so the newfound freedom of divorce allows women to escape bad marriages. Women are no longer needs to be “Hindered by marriage” or put up with rude or abusive behaviour. Divorce as an economist Argues“Good for women.”
At the same time, others believe that divorce is without fault Creates Financial and custody incentives for women to file for divorce, as the structure of the procedure could allow wives to obtain decent levels of spousal support and child custody. Most divorces are not due to abuse, infidelity, or abandonment, but rather because of a relative small And transient For reasons such as irreconcilable differences, drift, or lack of emotional support.
When judges have discretion, they tend to favor women in settlements. Nationally, men are only the custodial parent about 20% of the time, according to the US Census data. Statewide numbers vary significantly. Most states have adopted the judicially established “best interest of the child” standard for allocating child custody. Under these laws, men generally see their children less. Both Texas and California have laws that do this in favor of joint custody of children, but in all of them men Actually see Their children less than a third of the time. According to research by Custody Change, men only see their children 30% of time in New York. that it the worst In Illinois (23% of the time), Washington (24%), Oklahoma (22%), and Tennessee (22%).
Florida restructures its default settings
Florida has restructured the default settings for negotiations under the will system. After Kentucky, New Florida Law It is assumed that a 50-50 split between the spouses is in the best interest of the child (although the assumption is refutable). Bill happened Bipartisan support in the legislature on the principles that parents should have equal access to the courtroom. This is supposed to end the silent favoritism that judges often show women in detention proceedings.
Kentucky Passed A similar law passed in 2017 with overwhelming bipartisan support, as did Arkansas in 2021. Kentucky and Arkansas have the highest divorce rates. among women in the country. The 50 custody laws may encourage women to think again about divorce.
Perhaps these laws have such an effect. Number of court applications for divorce proceedings in Kentucky dropped from 22,512 in 2016 to less than 20,000 just one year later. This also coincided with a decrease in the number of domestic violence cases, which may indicate that some domestic violence charges were designed to tip the balance in the custodial proceedings. The divorce rate in Kentucky has also decreased 3.79 per thousand residents in 2016 3.3 In 2021 (the last year for which we have good statistics). Divorce rates are declining nationallySo the Kentucky 50-50 law may not be responsible for the entire decline. No statistics are available on the percentage of women who file for divorce in Kentucky.
fl The new alimony law Incentive changes also. Florida spousal support laws have long relied on a formula that ties alimony amounts to the duration of the marriage, culminating in eligibility for permanent alimony for marriages lasting longer than 17 years. Under the new law, couples who have been married for less than three years are not eligible for alimony, while those who have been married for 20 years or more are eligible for payments of up to 75% of the duration of the marriage. Marriages lasting from three to 10 years are eligible for 50% of the term maintenance, while marriages lasting from 10 to 20 years are eligible for 60% of the term. In general, there are fewer payments for shorter periods of time. Under the new law, there are also more ways to end alimony payments early, including taking into account the retirement of the person paying the alimony.
In general, marriages are highly unstable under the no-fault and voluntary divorce system. Challenging the whole no-fault system might be counterproductive under current circumstances, but changing the default settings for divorce proceedings could promote greater marital stability. At the very least, defining hypothetical positions about child custody, spousal support or alimony, as Florida does in its new laws, would increase the predictability of divorce proceedings. Increasing predictability would reduce the benefits women receive from divorce judgments under “objective” criteria such as “best interests of the child”. If the woman’s odds of receiving divorce benefits are lower, she may file for divorce less frequently than before.
Scott Yenor is Senior Director of Country Coalitions at the Claremont Institute’s American Lifestyle Center and Professor of Political Science at Boise State University.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official policy or the views of the Institute for Family Studies.