Fixing No-Fault Divorce

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael J. McManus, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

"For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one," reported the New York Times recently on Page One. "In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000."

These numbers are somewhat misleading. Oddly, Census data include all females over age 15. If only adults over 18 are counted, 52 percent of women are married. However, the increase of women without husbands is indisputable. Why?

It's not due to an increase of widows, who were 11.8 percent of women in 1950 but only 9.4 percent in 2005.

Divorce is the major reason fewer have husbands. Only 2.4 percent of women were divorced in 1950 compared to 11.8 percent in 2005 a fivefold increase. Furthermore, most divorces are filed by women. In fact, just since 1970 there have been 38 million divorces.

Secondly, there has been an alarming increase of never-married people. In 1970 there were 21 million never-married men and women aged 18 or older. By 2005, the number was 52 million. That is a 148 percent rise, more than triple the growth of population. Of those aged 30-44, the percentage of never-married men and women has also tripled since 1970.

What is not widely recognized is that these trends feed upon each other. The tripling of divorces makes young people fearful of marriage, particularly the 35 million since 1970 who saw their parents divorce. That experience fueled the number of cohabiting couples tenfold from 523,000 in 1970 to 5.2 million in 2005.

In choosing a "trial marriage," they have unwittingly chosen a "trial divorce." Eight of 10 will either break up before the wedding or after. The divorce rate for those who live together first is 50 percent higher than couples who remain apart until the wedding.

Therefore, it is crucial for state legislatures to strangle the beast that needlessly kills millions of marriages: no-fault divorce. It should be called "unilateral divorce" because it allows one spouse to walk away from a sacred vow to remain together "till death do us part."

"Unilateral divorce changed the rules of marriage and how people expect to behave in a marriage and whether to stay in one," says John Crouch, president of Americans for Divorce Reform. …