There is a misconception that once a couple enters the divorce process they believe there is no hope for resolving their problems and they are thus not interested in reconciliation counselling, but research has shown that four of five marriages (80%) end unilaterally with one spouse having divorce imposed upon them.1 But this comes as no shock to you since it describes your situations. Though some of your spouses have not filed for divorce and eventually you may be the one to file, it is your spouse who has chosen to leave. No fault divorce empowers the party who seeks a divorce and disempowers the party who wishes to remain married; the latter party has zero legal leverage to stop a divorce.

One spouse cannot stop a no fault divorce. Objecting to the other spouse’s request for divorce is itself an irreconcilable difference that would justify the divorce.
That’s what I learned after Sweetheart filed; I had no power. Oh it is true that there are irreconcilable differences—that is true of all marriages. For instance, I’m female and he’s male, but the court probably won’t allow us to divorce because I’ve got an innie and he has an outie. We have different tastes in food and he doesn’t appreciate purple nearly as much as I do—though he still claims it is his favourite color. But to say that our differences were irreconcilable because I didn’t want a divorce and he did is absurd. A difference or disagreement is not evidence a relationship is beyond the possibility of reconciliation. I have proven that differences are reconcilable and if it was possible for my marriage, it may be for many more.

What does it matter if 80% of divorce filings are unilateral; one person still wants a divorce.
Twenty-five percent of individuals (33% of men and 20% of women) going through divorce believe in the possibility of reconciliation. Eleven percent of couples both believe in the possibility of reconciliation and in 33% of couples one partner believes in it.
Thirty percent of individuals (33% of men and 25% of women) are willing to consider reconciliation assistance. Ten percent of couples both how interest and in 33% of couples one partner is interested. All together in ~45% of couples one or both partners believes the marriage can be reconciled and are interested in reconciliation assistance.2 Sadly many marriage counsellors believe that once a couple has filed, they are set on divorce and thus counsellors lack the skills or motivation to promote reconciliation since they think it is too late.

People think that divorce is the solution to their problems. They think it will reduce tension and conflict. Divorce does not decrease conflict or anger, rather it destroys relationships. No, I’m not talking about families and the destruction caused by divorce. Divorce frequently causes a degeneration to open conflict where previously conflict may have been low and it maintains open conflict where it was already high.3 Angry divorces lead to angry post divorce relationships. Divorce makes situations worse, not better.

There are several websites promoting divorce reform and providing research and statistical data. I encourage you to visit these sites, learn about the legislation and where it will help, register on the sites and find out how you can support the cause.
The Coalition for Divorce Reform is a new site started by Chris Gersten, the former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services. The coalition is committed to educating the public regarding the negative impact of divorce, reducing unnecessary divorces, promoting healthy marriages and legislative changes. In addition, the coalition wants to see that protections for victims of domestic violence are maintained or improved within new legislation.

The Parental Divorce Reduction Act

The Coalition’s present legislative agenda is The Parental Divorce Reduction Act. The purpose is to reduce unnecessary divorce and family court litigation while simultaneously educating parents about the impact of divorce on children. It proposes to do this by requiring couples participate in 4 to 8 hours of in-person “divorce reduction education” classes which not only teach about the impact of divorce on both children and adults, but also teaches relationship skills meant to strengthen marriages. This coursework is to be followed by an 8 month waiting period before filing for divorce. This act applies only to couples with minor children.

Exceptions

  • Physical Abuse
  • Abandoned for 18+ months
  • Incarceration lasting 5+ years
  • Addicts refusing treatment

For more information visit The Coalition for Divorce Reform’s in depth review: The Parental Divorce Reduction Act

What else can we do? What other changes will help to reduce unnecessary divorce? Though it has only been law for 40 years, it seems to me that many feel entitled to no-fault divorce and that the government should get out of their personal business. That brings the question: Is marriage a private exchange between a couple or is it a public institution?
Little girls still dream of fairy-tale weddings, but cohabitation has become an accepted alternative to marriage. If you don’t want the government in your business, cohabitation seems like an alternative. Marriage requires that there be a legal ceremony with witnesses; it seems to me that makes it a public institution. Marriage creates a comingling of finances, property, kinship rights for medical emergencies and rights of inheritance that are not automatic for couples who are cohabiting.

So within the institution of marriage what might help reduce unnecessary divorce? I’m just going to brainstorm a bit and anyone who has something to add please post in the comments.

Marriage Reform

  • Mandatory Premarital Counselling
    OR
    Tax breaks/license fee waivers for couples who receive premarital counselling
  • Mandatory Marriage & Family Coursework for High School Graduation

Divorce Reform

  • Convert Unilateral No-Fault to Mutual Consent
  • Shared Custody
    Women initiate 67% of divorces. They are confident in doing this because they feel certain they will be awarded physical custody of the children. Divorce rates decrease when shared parenting is the law.4
  • Mandatory Reconciliation Counselling
    Counselors need training in promoting reconciliation rather than neutrality, though they also must be accepting of divorce.
  • Pre-Filing or Pre-Decree Waiting Periods
  • Divorce Impact Education (for parents with minor children)
    Or for all couples, but gradual change may be easier to accept.
  • Post Decree Waiting Periods
    What if both partners change their mind soon after a divorce is final?

Additional Divorce Reform Websites
Reform Divorce
Divorce Statistics & Studies Blog
Americans for Divorce Reform
Divorce Preventions Legislation
Marriage & Family Courts
Marriage Savers
Divorce Resistance
Stolen Vows

Please visit The Coalition for Divorce Reform and learn what you can do to help.

Sources

  1. Furstenberg, Frank and Andrew Cherlin, Divided Families. Cambridge, MA:Harvard University Press, 1991, p. 22.
  2. Doherty, William J., Brian J. Willoughby and Bruce Peterson. “Interest In Marital Reconciliation Among Divorcing Parents.” Family Court Review, 49.2, (2011): 313–321.
  3. Ahrons, Constance. The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart. New York: Harper Collins Publications, 1994, 52-59.
  4. Brinig, Margaret and Douglas Allen, “These Boots Are Made for Walking: Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women.” American Economics and Law Review. 2.1 (2000): 126-127, 129, 158.

Comments

The Coalition for Divorce Reform4 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for the language about the Coalition for Divorce Reform and the Parental Divorce Reduction Act What makes the PRDA unique is that it does not seek to overturn the current divorce system. Any attempt at a comprehensive overhall of divorce law would meet with complete failure. There is almost no organized support for divorce reform. So a group of divorce reform experts, marriage educators, and others got together to design significant divorce reform that actually has a chance to pass state legislatures, something that has not been done in 40 years. When we pass this legislation in two or three states, we will immediatley see a drop in divorce. then a host of states will follow as the taxpayers will begin to save significant amounts of money. The average divorce costs the taxpayers $25,000 in payments to women and children thrust into poverty as a result of divorce. Please go to the site and sign up “How Can I Help” to learn more about what you can do to pass this legislation in your state.

    • Chris, Thank you so much for stopping by. Yes, I think Americans will only accept gradual or small changes. I am assuming that is why the Parental Divorce Reduction Act is geared towards parents with minor children. It's a start. It would not have helped me because we didn't have children. But I'll support anything that does something toward improvement. Everyone, please visit The Coalition For Divorce Reform website. There is a volunteer conference call coming up on 6 July and you can be a part of it.
      And Chris just put up a new article explaining why the coalition is supporting the Parental Divorce Reduction Act. http://www.divorcereform.info/index.php/Parental-
      My recent post The Coalition for Divorce Reform

  2. It is interesting that the statistics for men and women believing in reconciliation during divorce are different. I was reading recently that women tend (this is a generalisation) to be more forgiving and willing to work out a destroyed relationship for longer than many men (I.e. will be willing to try to forgive infidelity), but once a woman has made up her mind that it is truly over then she is much less likely to change it. From a MLC point of view that is interesting because there seems to be a predominance of women that access sites like this, willing to forgive and hoping for reconciliation, but I believe that for most of those women, the day that they decide that it is done and over, then that is the day the reconciliation possibility ends. Not the day the husband believes he is leaving the marriage for another woman (because we have seen that many come back or attempt to come back). I suppose that supports the idea that many more MLC marriages could be reconciled except that sometimes by the time the person in crisis starts to recover and wants to return, many spouses are done. The LBS almost always has the final say.

  3. Wow, I loved reading your ideas. I’m working on a personal plea which will be sent to the Civic leaders in California. I will also include a video that I made that is on Facebook and YouTube asking for divorce reform. However I’m asking for a serious overhaul.

    I’m doing all of this on low budget Social Security income only. I would really appreciate it if somebody could look at the booklet before I mail it off. I’ve never watched Divorce Court nor took a class on political science. I’m simoly a retired English teacher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge