Midwestern States Making It Harder to Untie the Knot DIVORCE LAW

By Laurel Shaper Walters, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Midwestern States Making It Harder to Untie the Knot DIVORCE LAW

Laurel Shaper Walters, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor

TWENTY-FIVE years after "no-fault" divorce laws swept the country, Americans are starting to turn back the clock.

Next month, Michigan may become the first state in the nation to revert to a system that forces couples to go through a more rigorous legal process before receiving a divorce. Iowa is considering a similar move.

"We shifted from a fault to a no-fault system in a rush a generation ago, and we really haven't looked back," says William Galston, a professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland. "The evidence is now beginning to accumulate that the changes have not been good for minor children. And people are beginning to pay attention."

The attempt to return to tougher divorce laws reflects growing conservative attitudes about issues from welfare to education.

Some social scientists now say that no-fault laws, which removed the need for blame in a divorce, contributed to a more than 30 percent increase in the national divorce rate between 1970 and 1994. Recent research has also shown that children of divorced parents face greater difficulty than was previously thought. "Even when you take into account the level of pre-divorce conflict in the family, research shows the negative effect of divorce on minor children in virtually every dimension - economic, educational, psychological," Mr. Galston says.

Effects of divorce on children

Statistics drawn from Census data portray the negative effects of divorce. For mothers, divorce can mean a significant drop in income. For children of divorced parents, it can mean a greater likelihood of dropping out of school, getting into trouble with the law, and having children out of wedlock.

Armed with new research and favorable political trends, Michigan State Rep. Jessie Dalman (R) crafted a bill to repeal the state's no-fault divorce law. She says the 1972 law "has weakened the fabric of the family and devalued marriage." Her bill, to be introduced next month, already has won the support of Republican Gov. John Engler and the state's GOP House Speaker.

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) of Iowa agrees that no-fault laws hurt children. "I think sometimes people just decide to get divorced and don't even think about the impact on children," he says.

With the governor's support, Iowa State Rep. Charles Hurley (R) is drafting a bill that would require grounds for a divorce - such as adultery, cruelty, or desertion - unless both spouses consent to end the marriage.

Under current no-fault law, such criteria are not necessary to secure a divorce. All 50 states now have no-fault laws or variations of them.

The latest reforms are being pursued in the interests of children.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Midwestern States Making It Harder to Untie the Knot DIVORCE LAW


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?