Take it From a Divorce Coach and Attorney: Ending No-Fault Divorce Is a Scary Suggestion - Ms. Magazine (2023)

Take it From a Divorce Coach and Attorney: Ending No-Fault Divorce Is a Scary Suggestion - Ms. Magazine (1)

We are human—just like everyone else. And, we’re both divorced.

We also work daily as a divorce coach and a divorce attorney-mediator. Our hearts went out to a woman at our recent support group meeting, who shared, “I refused to cite ‘irretrievable breakdown of my marriage’ in my complaint. I insisted my attorney cite ‘infidelity.’”

“Nobody does that anymore because of no-fault divorce laws,” the woman’s lawyer told her. Overcome with emotion, she told us she didn’t care—she wanted it written down anyway.

We get it. It’s human nature to want justice when you feel you’ve been betrayed. But we see what goes on in the family court world and understand why no-fault divorce is actually good for both parties.

In 19th-century America, fault-based divorce laws required you to prove specific grounds to get divorced. This led to all kinds of benchmarks that varied from state to state including: neglect, abandonment, adultery, intemperance, extreme cruelty and lengthy imprisonment. The process was adversarial and favored whoever had more resources.

In 1969, California Governor Ronald Reagan (R), who was divorced himself, signed California’s Family Law Act, which introduced the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” This concept was eventually adopted by all 50 states to address the limitations and shortcomings of fault-based divorce systems. Simply put, judges don’t have time to figure out who did what to whom—and don’t care. And, if you thought divorce was already expensive, imagine the attorney’s plus investigator’s fees to prove infidelity if we went back to a fault-based framework.

Judges don’t have time to figure out who did what to whom—and don’t care.

Now, conservative leaders in states like Louisiana, Texas and Nebraska want to get rid of no-fault divorce, in some cases introducing bills that would transport us back to the world of fault-based battles. What many people don’t understand is this would be absolutely catastrophic—especially for women.

For me, Amy Polacko, the majority of my coaching clients are escaping a narcissistic coercive controller. This abuse already takes many forms in a divorce—including creating fictitious claims and weaponizing the legal system against women. I have no doubt that with no guardrails at all, abusers will have a better chance of making their victims ‘at fault’ in these epic clashes.

To me, Rosemarie Ferrante, vice president of the Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce: The whole conversation of going back to that time when we didn’t have no-fault divorce, when we have made such advancements in normalizing healthy divorce, is mind-blowing.

I left litigation to found my own mediation and collaborative divorce practice, which advocates for healthier approaches to ending marriages. Two-thirds of all divorces are non-adversarial in nature—having to prove fault will only create animosity where it doesn’t need to exist.

No-fault divorce aims to provide a fair and equitable approach to marital dissolution by removing the need to assign blame or prove wrongdoing in order to obtain the divorce. This legal reform recognized the changing nature of relationships, allowing couples to separate respectfully and focus on rebuilding their lives rather than engaging in contentious legal battles.

No-fault divorce also prioritizes the well-being of children by reducing the emotional turmoil often associated with fault-based divorces, promoting a more compassionate and efficient process for families.

Having to prove fault will only create animosity where it doesn’t need to exist.

This positive change and the growth and acceptance of non-adversarial divorce options, like divorce mediation and collaborative divorce, have positively impacted divorcing families, and most importantly, children. The solid majority of U.S. citizens find divorce to be “morally acceptable” and the rate of divorce has decreased since the advent of no-fault divorce. As a society, we recognize that not all relationships are forever.

Important research sheds further light on no-fault’s benefits. Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson, professors at the University of Michigan and Harvard-trained economists, studied the impact of no-fault divorce laws and found it decreased cases of domestic violence, suicide and spousal homicide for women. (Of course, while women experience the bulk of sexual violence, men can be victims too: One in four women and one in nine men will experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.)

Some blame no-fault divorce for contributing to the breakdown of the family unit. But in a separate study, Wolfers discovered that, while more people got divorced after these new laws passed, dissolution rates leveled out after 10 years. It was simply bottled-up demand.

Wolfers said going back to fault-based divorce is dangerous. “If a husband was abusive and we were in a full-consent divorce world [requiring consent from both sides], that would mean the wife would be trapped in this situation forever. And if she was a victim of domestic abuse, that would be very terrible.”

Conservative commentator Steven Crowder has been vocal about his disdain for no-fault divorce. A video of him in a verbal exchange with his wife ordering her to be “disciplined” was leaked recently. It begs the question: Do some Republicans want to abolish no-fault divorce so they can keep their wives captive and under control? Crowder said the comments were taken out of context and went public with his divorce saying, “Since 2021 I’ve been living through what has increasingly been a horrendous divorce. … No, this was not my choice. My then wife decided that she didn’t want to be married anymore and in the state of Texas that is completely permitted.”

Yes, if a woman—or man—wants to leave a marriage they are entitled to by law. I’s simple: Divorce is a matter of social justice and equality.

Within the no-fault model, many states still permit the court to consider the reasons for the marital breakdown when determining spousal support and/or property distribution. While research solidly shows that abuse and coercive control of one parent is child abuse and should be considered in custody determinations, family courts have not caught up.

Even in our state of Connecticut where Jennifers’ Law was passed, recognizing that patterns of abuse are indicative of parental fitness, many lawyers and judges simply are not educated on this topic.

When women report domestic abuse or child abuse, they are often not believed—and can even lose custody of their children, documented in George Washington University Law professor Joan Meier’s seminal 2020 study.

Specifically, Meier found that less than half (41 percent) of women’s abuse claims are believed. And the odds that mothers’ allegations of child abuse will be credited are 2.23 times lower than that of domestic violence. Child sexual abuse is rarely accepted by the courts (15 percent) and mothers reporting a father’s abuse (of various kinds) actually lost custody in 26 percent of cases.

A growing movement is shining a light on how domestic abusers manipulate the legal system in their favor when it comes to custody, using the junk science theory that the other parent has “alienated” them from their children. In an April 2023 report, the United Nations spoke out against parental alienation as a highly gendered weapon used in court and tied to domestic, child and sexual abuse. Fault-based divorce could make this situation even worse.

Attorney Sandra Radna said she’s seen many women liberated from unhappy marriages since New York was the last state to institute no-fault divorce in 2010. “Going backwards would dramatically increase litigation because grounds for divorce would be required to be proven if the other spouse did not agree,” she said. ” The court system is already congested. Litigated divorces often take years to resolve. This would add cases to an already stressed and overcrowded system and would negatively impact all involved, including the children.”

The children—and their mothers, as Wolfers continues to drive home.

“Men’s groups often speak about no-fault divorce as a feeling that they’re ripped off because they don’t control their property,” he said. “The moment you go a step further and admit that people are no longer property, this rhetoric becomes a lot less persuasive.”

Up next:

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What are the downsides of a no fault divorce? ›

The spouse can raise objections, which can extend the court proceedings. The dispute over assets, money, and child custody may make the case as expensive as fault divorce. May be misused by a disgruntled spouse.

What are the advantages of divorce? ›

Benefits of Divorce
  • Divorce Has Health Benefits. ...
  • Divorce Can Help You Get Into Shape. ...
  • Divorce Makes You a Better Parent. ...
  • Divorce Helps You Manage Money Better. ...
  • Divorce Gives You More Opportunities. ...
  • Divorce Teaches You Coping Skills and Patience. ...
  • Divorce Help You Find Ways to Relax.
Nov 11, 2022

How long does a no fault divorce take in the UK? ›

How long does a no fault divorce take? The timescales related to the no fault divorce process are relatively straightforward. It is now estimated that no fault divorce proceedings take a minimum of 26 weeks to finalise.

Why is divorce not a good idea? ›

Studies have shown the destructive consequences of divorce: the devastating emotional and psychological effects on the separating spouses and the children. The children of divorce will become the parents of tomorrow. They may also fail to prioritize the strength of their families. 8.

Which spouse suffers more economically in a divorce? ›

Following a divorce, women are more likely to be impoverished than men. Women whose family income was below the national median and mothers who were not in the workforce before the divorce are very likely to experience poverty following their divorce. Economically, women suffer more from divorce than men.

What is the best state to get divorced in? ›

What Are the Easiest States to Get a Divorce?
  • Nevada. Known as the “divorce capital of the world,” Nevada has some of the most straightforward and lenient divorce laws in the United States. ...
  • Alaska. Alaska is another state that has a relatively straightforward divorce process. ...
  • South Dakota. ...
  • Wyoming. ...
  • New Hampshire. ...
  • Mississippi.
Apr 24, 2023

What are two negative effects of divorce? ›

Feelings of loss, anger, confusion, anxiety, and many others, all may come from this transition. Divorce can leave children feeling overwhelmed and emotionally sensitive. Children need an outlet for their emotions – someone to talk to, someone who will listen, etc.

How damaging is divorce? ›

Divorce affects the couple's children in both the short and the long term. After divorce, the couple often experiences effects including, decreased levels of happiness, change in economic status, and emotional problems. The effects on children include academic, behavioral, and psychological problems.

Who feels better after divorce? ›

A study by Kingston University in the UK found that despite the negative financial impact of divorce on women, they are generally happier than men after divorce.

Is divorce better than an unhappy marriage? ›

The study found that on average unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier than unhappily married adults who stayed married when rated on any of 12 separate measures of psychological well-being. Divorce did not typically reduce symptoms of depression, raise self-esteem, or increase a sense of mastery.

Can your spouse get half of your Social Security if you get divorced? ›

If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried) if: Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer. Your ex-spouse is unmarried. Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older.

What is a non amicable divorce? ›

An acrimonious divorce usually occurs where one spouse has treated the other spouse so badly that reconciliation is not possible at all. Such a divorce is often a non-amicable divorce and can turn out to be nasty.

What is the divorce Reform Act 1969? ›

The Divorce Reform Act (1969) enabled divorce to become easier for unhappy couples to access. This was a revolutionary piece of legislation as it enabled a 'no fault' divorce to be requested. This meant that an individual did not need grounds, such as adultery or abandonment, in order to get divorced.

Does Texas have no-fault divorce? ›

The ground for a no-fault divorce in Texas is dissolution of the marriage based on irreconcilable differences. No fault divorces are the most common type of divorce in Texas. In this case, the two spouses agree that they do not want to be married anymore and jointly agree to file a no-fault divorce.

Who gets it worse in a divorce? ›

Usually, it seems as though the woman is the one who gets the better end of the deal. While many men are quick to say that their ex-wives took everything, including the dog—or that is what many country songs lead you to believe, anyway—the truth is that women often fare worse in a divorce.

What is most difficult in a divorce? ›

Many people consider the separation phase to be the most difficult. This is the time between when you decide to get divorced and the date you actually get divorced. This period often presents the most uncertainties about child support, visitation, alimony, division of assets, and more.

What do men lose in divorce? ›

Men Often Experience a Loss of Identity

They form a critical part of our lives. But when a divorce happens, men lose most of it – the spouse, the children, the familial bond, and the happiness. The custody of the children is often given to the mother, while the father only gets the visitation rights.

How divorce changes a woman? ›

Divorce is a life-changing event that affects both men and women, but studies have shown that women often experience more negative effects both financially and emotionally. For many women, divorce can lead to financial instability, loss of social support, and a decline in their mental health.

Which marriages divorce the most? ›

Usually, second or third marriages in the United States have a higher divorce rate: 60% of second marriages and about 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Which state has the best marriages? ›

Nevada and Hawaii had the highest rates of matrimony in 2021 following a sharp overall decline the year the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

What state do marriages last the longest? ›

10. The average length of a marriage in the US is 19.9 years. While the national average marriage length is just under 20 years, couples in Maine and West Virginia typically have the longest-lasting unions. The typical marriage in these lasts for 22.3 years.

Which state is the hardest to get a divorce? ›

The 5 Hardest States To Get A Divorce:
  • Vermont.
  • Rhode Island.
  • South Carolina.
  • Arkansas.
  • California.

What divorce does to a woman emotionally? ›

There are five common emotions people experience during the divorce process. They are often referred to as the five stages of grief. They include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Naturally, these expand to more nuanced emotions that vary based on your circumstances.

At what age does divorce affect a child the most? ›

Elementary school age (6–12) This is arguably the toughest age for children to deal with the separation or divorce of their parents. That's because they're old enough to remember the good times (or good feelings) from when you were a united family.

What is the second most common cause of divorce? ›

The study found that the primary reason for divorce was lack of commitment, closely followed by infidelity and conflict in the family.

What hurts the most about divorce? ›

In the throes of divorce, people experience the pain of disrupted emotional attachment. The roots of emotional attachment go very deep in our lives. Establishing and maintaining attachment is the most crucial thing at the earliest point in life; without it, we would have died as an infant.

How long does grief from divorce last? ›

Individuals may go through several stages of mourning or grief. The emotional intensity of this period usually reaches a peak within the first six months of separation. However, the grieving process may take as long as two years.

Can you have PTSD from divorce? ›

The end of a marriage can absolutely bring on a diagnosis of PTSD and symptoms, which often include night terrors, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts related to the upsetting divorce, and even physical symptoms if a person is exposed to traumatic reminders of the divorce,” Dine explains.

What is your biggest regret after a divorce? ›

Shame is one of the most toxic emotions associated with divorce. And people feel it for all sorts of reasons. Some people feel shame for “failing” at their marriages or putting on a brave face for too long. Others feel shame for being unfaithful, or for having a partner that was unfaithful to them.

Can you have a good life after divorce? ›

But you can successfully work through the emotions and start a new life after divorce, says clinical social worker specialist Karen Tucker, LISW-S, ACSW. “You may feel rejected, angry, profoundly hurt or out of control. It's also possible that you'll feel relieved and hopeful,” Tucker says.

Is it lonely after divorce? ›

Loneliness after a divorce or break-up can be common and even expected. You were sharing a life with your spouse or partner, maybe raising kids, and likely making plans for a future together. Divorce and break-ups stir up strong emotions, many of which can lead to feelings of loneliness.

Is life harder after divorce? ›

While some may be happier after a divorce, research indicates most adults that divorce have lower levels of happiness and more psychological distress compared to married individuals. Divorce can bring up new conflicts between couples that cause more tension than when they were married.

What are signs of unhappy marriage? ›

  • You Hardly Communicate Anymore.
  • There is Little to No Intimacy.
  • You Would Rather Spend Time With Your Friends Than be at Home With Your Partner.
  • Everything They Do Irritates You.
  • There is Emotional Withdrawal.
  • Both of you Have Differing Values, Beliefs, and Goals.
  • There's Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.
Jun 4, 2023

How do I get the $16728 Social Security bonus? ›

To acquire the full amount, you need to maximize your working life and begin collecting your check until age 70. Another way to maximize your check is by asking for a raise every two or three years. Moving companies throughout your career is another way to prove your worth, and generate more money.

How much Social Security does a divorced spouse get? ›

How much Social Security does a divorced spouse get? A divorced spouse can receive up to 50% of their ex-spouse's full retirement benefit. You must wait until you reach full retirement age if you want to claim your full benefit. For most people, full retirement age for Social Security is between 66 and 67.

Which wife gets the Social Security? ›

If you are married and you and your spouse have worked and earned enough credits individually, you will each get your own Social Security benefit.

What is silent divorce? ›

What is a silent divorce? The term 'silent divorce' refers to a state where there isn't obvious conflict, but nor is there much of anything else going on in a relationship. It is not sustainable in the long term.

What is null divorce? ›

An annulment (or nullity) is when a judge says in a court order that your marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. This means something was legally wrong with the marriage from the start. If you get an annulment, it's like your marriage never happened because it was never legal.

What is amicable dissolution? ›

As the name implies, an amicable divorce is one where both spouses agree on the terms of their divorce without resorting to litigation. An amicable divorce doesn't necessarily mean the spouses leave their marriage on friendly terms or continue to interact with one another once they sign the final paperwork.

What percentage best reflects the number of marriages that end in divorce? ›

But divorce happens all around the world, and although each divorce is different, you are certainly not alone in this experience. It has often been said that 50% of marriages end in divorce. However, if you look at the past few years and decades of statistics, you can see the divorce rate is slowly decreasing.

What is irretrievable breakdown? ›

An irretrievable breakdown of the marriage occurs when one or both spouses are unable or unwilling to cohabit and there are no prospects for reconciliation.

What is the no fault divorce law 1969? ›

Three years after Governor Brown urged reforming California's fault-based divorce law, Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Family Law Act of 1969 into law, making California the first no-fault divorce state in the nation.

Does your wife get half in divorce if she cheated? ›

The answer is no. It is a common misconception that infidelity can ultimately allow one spouse to take more than an equal share of marital property. The hard truth is, if you go to court you will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars and up to two or more years before a judge hears your case.

Is infidelity allowed in Texas divorce? ›

Texas is a no-fault divorce state where you do not need to prove fault to get a divorce, using infidelity as leverage in divorce is an option. The Court may grant a divorce in favor of one spouse if the other spouse has committed adultery.

Does infidelity matter in Texas divorce? ›

Adultery, or the act of having sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse, is a common fault-based ground for divorce in Texas. If a spouse's infidelity causes the breakdown of a marriage, this can affect the court's determinations regarding alimony and marital property division.

What is the difference between no fault and irreconcilable differences? ›

In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse is blamed for the dissolution of the marriage. Instead, the spouse filing for the divorce claims irreconcilable differences exist between the spouses that make it impossible to continue with the marriage.

What are the disadvantages of divorce? ›

What Are the Effects of Divorce on Children?
  • Poor Performance in Academics. Divorce is difficult for all members of the family. ...
  • Loss of Interest in Social Activity. ...
  • Difficulty Adapting to Change. ...
  • Emotionally Sensitive. ...
  • Anger/Irritability. ...
  • Feelings of Guilt. ...
  • Introduction of Destructive Behavior. ...
  • Increase in Health Problems.

What is a no-fault divorce also known as? ›

Depending on the state, the terminology used may be incompatibility, irreconcilable differences between the spouses, or irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

What is a key difference between a fault and a no-fault divorce? ›

In a fault divorce, the filing spouse holds the other responsible for ruining the marriage, while in a no fault divorce no blame is placed on either party. The difference between a fault and a no fault divorce is the grounds for the divorce.

What is the advantage of a no-fault system for states? ›

Faster compensation: In a no-fault state, you can typically get your medical bills and lost wages paid more quickly because you don't have to wait for the at-fault driver's insurance company to pay out.

What is divorce due to irreconcilable differences? ›

When a couple claims irreconcilable differences as “the cause” for their divorce proceeding, it means they cannot work out their issues to regain a healthy future. This includes failed attempts at trying to rectify their differences through therapy and other types of marriage counseling.

What is an example of irreconcilable differences? ›

Examples of irreconcilable differences include: Lengthy long-distance separation due to work or other causes. Difference of opinion on having children or how to raise children. Difference of religion.

What is the worse age for divorce? ›

Divorce with school-aged kids (5 to 13 years old)

The school-aged years are probably the worst age for divorce for children; the potential for emotional trauma from divorce is highest at age 11.

What is another term for divorce which ends a marriage called? ›

Dissolution is the formal, legal ending of a marriage by a court, commonly called a divorce. A dissolution of marriage completely ends your legal relationship as spouses and ends your marriage.

Where did no fault divorce come from? ›

Fall 2009. In 1969, Governor Ronald Reagan of California made what he later admitted was one of the biggest mistakes of his political life. Seeking to eliminate the strife and deception often associated with the legal regime of fault-based divorce, Reagan signed the nation's first no-fault divorce bill.

What is a no fault divorce quizlet? ›

No-Fault Divorce. Parties do not have to prove that one person is at fault. No-Fault Divorce. Either party can have the divorce even if the other does not want it. Property Settlements in No-Fault Divorce.


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