Monday, February 10, 2014

No Divorce For You!

Kansas seems bound and determined to make the news lately, but never for anything good. (Except for basketball. Our basketball is pretty darn good.) We've got crazy fights-to-the-death between our legislature and our courts. We've got a Senator who so desperately needs to reconnect with a state he's barely set foot in, his story made the New York Times.

And now we've got this. A state representative has penned a bill that would eliminate no-fault divorce and return our state to the bygone era of contested divorce, where one desperate-to-hold-on spouse can hold the ready-to-move-on spouse hostage in lengthy trials, where the spouses have to air all of the dirty reasons why the marriage just doesn't work for both of them, where property settlement can't even begin to happen until the couple has lived apart for at least a year ('cause that can happen in this economy). The originally stated goal was to remove "incompatibility" (the new "irreconcilable differences") from the possible reasons why a person can file for divorce. Per the legislator who wrote it, people shouldn't get an "easy out" from marriage; they should have to work at it.

There are so many problems with this, I don't even know where to start. This lunatic legislator, John Bradford of Lansing (not my representative) seems to have no concept of why no-fault divorce became the predominant approach to divorce in every state. (For a long time, New York held out, but they finally joined the modern era in 2010.)

Prior to no-fault divorce, a couple who somewhat amicably wanted to divorce had to jump through all sorts of absurd hoops to make that happen. An honorable man who actually spend the night in a hotel with a female escort so the wife could make a claim of adultery, just as one example. Spouses who were battered couldn't get out easily; they had to publicly accuse the abusive spouse, thus endangering themselves further, before they could hope to get out. Just think how much better the women of Downton Abbey would have it if they lived in an era of no-fault divorce. Mr. Bates could have just divorced that crazy Vera before she could commit suicide and frame him for her murder, thus robbing her of his supposed motive. Michael Gregson wouldn't have had to move to Germany to get divorced from his institutionalized wife. Jane Eyre and that lump Mr. Rochester would have benefited, too.

Divorce trials are ugly. They're expensive. They're hard on the kids. They're something that sensible people desperately want to avoid. But a broken marriage isn't something people should be forced to live in, either. Sometimes, ending a marriage really is the best thing for everyone. Far better for kids to have separated parents who are happy than married parents who hate each other and their miserable lives. It's not family friendly, economically-wise, or embracing a "culture of life" to put families through a contested divorce. There are sound policy and safety reasons why contested divorces have become a thing of the past.

I finally found the text of the bill. First thing I noticed was that while the author insists adultery remains a ground for divorce, this bill requires that the respondent not just have committed adultery, but that s/he was convicted of adultery under the criminal code. So this bill would effectively eliminate contested divorce where the problem is adultery. Because no one ever, ever gets prosecuted for adultery! As a taxpayer, I would get pretty up in arms about it if prosecutorial and investigative resources all of a sudden had to be devoted to convicting cheating rats when the dirtbag who burglarized my home has still not been identified.

I can't imagine that this bill has a real chance of passage. Too many people see the lunacy of making divorce harder to get. Families would be stuck living in limbo. Courts would be clogged with trials that previously wouldn't have been necessary. Spouses seeking a divorce would actually be required to prove to the satisfaction of a district court judge (and then appellate judges on review) that they met one of the limited statutory bases for divorce. Passing this bill would be expensive, intrusive, and regressive. (Wait a minute, this is Kansas. Passing bills that are expensive, intrusive, and regressive is the official state pastime!)

If Mr. Bradford really wants there to be fewer divorces in the great state of Kansas, I would humbly suggest he consider another option. Encourage less marriage.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I totally agree. "Divorce trials are ugly. They're expensive. They're hard on the kids." I wish more people would pay attention to these things.

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