CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Say No to No-Fault Divorce

Dec 13, 2017

I notice that an American reality TV show about divorce called Untying the Knot is now on Australian television. It seems to have aired in the US for a few years, and we now have the pleasure of having to endure it. So this is where we have come to as a culture…

If a group of malevolent Martians wanted to destroy Western civilisation at its most fundamental and basic level, there would be various places to launch an attack. But perhaps the most crucial focal point would be marriage and family. And long before fake homosexual marriage came along, the West did a great job of destroying itself by means of no-fault divorce.

The downsides of easy divorce have been documented for decades now. Those who wanted to stay and make the marriage work are among the big losers. So often they are men, who not only lose their wives, but lose all contact with their children.

Stephen Baskerville has been writing about this for decades now. His 2007 book, Taken into Custody, looked at how men especially are savaged by biased family law courts. And his new book, The New Politics of Sex, is a must-read expose of the politicisation of all things having to do with sex.

As to no-fault divorce, Baskerville says it was “a deception from the start.” He continues:

What lawmakers and the public were told would permit divorce by mutual consent in fact allowed unilateral and involuntary divorce: divorce that was not only without the consent or over the objections of an innocent spouse, but that forced the innocent spouse to bear the burden of the costs and consequences. In retrospect, it was nothing less than the boldest social and legal experiment ever undertaken in the Western democracies: the end of marriage as a legally enforceable contract, or what Maggie Gallagher called the “abolition of marriage.” Today it is not possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.

But children of course are also huge losers here. And this is the saddest part of all concerning the divorce revolution. They suffer enormously when their parents divorce. This has also been documented for quite some time now. As but one example, Judith Wallerstein studied the lives of such children over decades. It does not look good.

See her three important volumes: Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce; Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a Decade After Divorce; and The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. I offer full details below of these books. And see one of my reviews: billmuehlenberg.com/2000/09/15/a-review-of-the-unexpected-legacy-of-divorce-by-judith-wallerstein/

The research – and the horror stories – have not let up since then. Let me draw your attention to two new resources. One is a brand new article entitled “How My Parents’ Divorce Ruined Our Holidays And Family Life Forever”. The anonymous author lets it all hang out, and it makes for depressing reading. It begins:

December always reminds me how much I hate divorce. As the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle while we wrap presents, I am anxious about family gatherings and travel plans. Three decades ago, when my parents divorced, family Christmas gatherings became very complicated.
My parents’ divorce is the one that their generation was told to have. Like many others married in the 1970s, their marriage ended with a no-fault divorce. One of them wasn’t happy and felt the only way to solve that was not to be married anymore. In the name of fulfillment and contentment, our family broke apart.

She continues:

Since I married, I’ve prayed that my husband and I will grow old together; that we will be quick to forgive, slow to anger, and not keep a record of wrongs against each other. We are sinners who need to give and accept grace if we are going to pass on a legacy to our children of love and faithfulness in our marriage. I have no disillusionment that I am somehow above divorce. But may God save me — and my husband and children — from ever having to suffer on that road.
I am terrified by the statistic that adults who come from divorced families are more likely to divorce than those whose parents remained married. Not surprisingly, both of my parents come from divorced homes. My mom once told me the two greatest hurts in her life are her divorce and her parents’ divorce.

She concludes:

When my children were small, I thought all of the grandparents would like a photo calendar of the children for Christmas. I put together the best pictures from the first three years of their lives. When I flipped through the pages, I realized I couldn’t give it to my parents. One of the pictures had my mom and stepdad in it. Another one had my real dad. Everyone would be offended. I kept the calendars, and a day later I bought everyone generic gift cards and a box of chocolates.
That Christmas I gave out lame presents that should have been something so much more personal and delightful, and I had to do it twice because that’s how a divorced family does Christmas. You pretend everything is jolly even though at every gathering some of your family are missing. You establish new traditions and memories that exclude some of the most important people in your life. And no one wants to know that even though you’re fine, you really think it stinks.

But she is certainly not alone in such experiences. There are millions of children of divorce who have similar stories to tell. There are so many such stories that full-length books can only contain a small sampling of them. One such collection of sad tales is found in a new book edited by Leila Miller.

It contains stories of children who are now adults, and have experienced the hells of growing up with parental divorce. When Miller mentioned on the social media her desire to hear people tell their stories, she had a hundred responses in the first few days. More followed.

This book features 70 of them and their tales of woe. One’s heart breaks after reading just the first few pages of these tragic tales, and there are 250 pages to go through. It is impossible to pick out a few good representative quotes – the book is filled with pathos and tear-jerking testimonies. Let me offer just one:

It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. But worse yet is your desire to “move on” and pretend that my first family never existed, and that half of me no longer exists. You take the photos of the other half of my family tree down, and you imagine I don’t notice or care. I do notice, and I do care. That’s half of me; that family really did exist, and it is important to me. Just because you want to move on doesn’t give you the right to erase half my family. First families matter!

All these now grownup children are invisible people, as Miller reminds us. They are not supposed to exist, because divorce is supposed to be such a wonderful thing, and kids are supposed to be so resilient. These are all lies. With a few exceptions, children grieve terribly and for many decades – even for life – when their parents divorce.

No-fault divorce “is one of the lynchpins of the Sexual Revolution” as Jennifer Roback Morse puts it in her foreword to Miller’s book. The truth is, it has been one of the most diabolical and dangerous social experiments ever foisted upon us.

Those Martians were right to select this as their primary weapon of mass destruction to unleash on the West. It has been devastating, and still the children weep…

Divorce and its impact on children – further reading:

Baskerville, Stephen, The New Politics of Sex. Angelico press, 2017.
Baskerville, Stephen, Taken into Custody. Cumberland House, 2007.
Gallagher, Maggie, The Abolition of Marriage. Regnery, 1996.
Garfinkel, Irwin and Sara McLanahan, Single Mothers and Their Children: A New American Dilemma. Washington: Urban Institute, 1986.
McLanahan, Sara and Gary Sandefur, Growing up with a Single Parent. Harvard University Press, 1994.
Marquardt, Elizabeth, Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. Crown Publishers, 2005.
Medved, Diane, The Case Against Divorce. Ivy Books, 1989.
Miller, Leila, ed., Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak. LCB Publishing, 2017.
Wallerstein, Judith and Joan Kelly, Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce. Basic Books, 1980.
Wallerstein, Judith and Sandra Blakeslee, Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a Decade After Divorce. Bantam Press, 1989.
Wallerstein, Judith, Julia Lewis and Sandra Blakeslee, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. Hyperion, 2000.
Whitehead, Barbara Dafoe, The Divorce Revolution. Knopf, 1997.
Weitzman, Lenore J., The Divorce Revolution: The Unexpected Social and Economic Consequences for Women and Children in America. Free Press, 1985.
Weitzman, Lenore J., and Mavis Maclean, eds., Economic Consequences of Divorce. Clarendon Press, 1992.

thefederalist.com/2017/12/12/parents-divorce-ruined-holidays-family-life-forever/#.WjAkinLkELM.facebook

[1485 words]

15 Responses to Say No to No-Fault Divorce

  • Thank you, Bill, for another excellent and timely article.

    Here are three more books on the tragic consequences of divorce that your readers might be interested in:

    Hirst, John. ‘Kangaroo Court’: Family Law in Australia, Quarterly Essay No.17. Melbourne: Black Inc., 2005.

    Parejko, Judy. Stolen Vows: The Illusion of No-Fault Divorce and the Rise of the American Divorce Industry. Collierville, TN: InstantPublisher, 2002.

    Whelan, Robert (ed.). Just a Piece of Paper? Divorce Reform and the Undermining of Marriage. London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1995.

    The first of these books, by the late historian John Hirst of Melbourne’s La Trobe University, created quite a sensation when it appeared 12 years ago.

  • Thanks John. Yes the piece by Hirst is terrific, and I have the Whelan volume. I will have to get Parejko.

  • In the Bible I ‘grew up’ with, it’s this phrase in Hebrews 13:4 that got my attention for many years: “and the marriage bed kept pure”. But in latter 2017, events have drawn my attention to the first bit: “Marriage should be honored by all.” Contrast that with what many SSM-yes advocates overtly said during the survey campaign: “I’m against marriage as an institution and think we should get rid of it, but while it still exists, I’m for same-sex marriage.” And now I see the no-fault divorce lobbyists were also marriage-dishonoring. And urging spouses to do the same. Thanks Bill for a great article.

  • Bill,
    Thanks for this timely article detailing the harms of no-fault divorce. Australians need to understand that by changing the Marriage Act to allow “two people” marriage, federal parliament has completed the deregulation of civil marriage that began four decades ago, with no-fault divorce. The amended Marriage Act allows civil marriage registration for “two people”, thus completing the deregulation of civil marriage that began in the 1970s with no-fault divorce, the sole criterion for which is “irretrievable breakdown”. Parliament has removed the essential marriage qualification, a man and a woman, because it had already removed the essential marriage disqualification, adultery. Only a man and a woman can commit adultery, so a legal system that recognised adultery as grounds for divorce, could register only genuine marriages. To remove adultery as a grounds for divorce, parliament had to change the law to remove sexual intercourse as a requirement for civil marriage. Parliament has now decided that any “two people” can have “marriage equality” for civil marriage and legal divorce, because any “two people” in any type of relationship can have an “irretrievable breakdown”.

    Ever since the family law reforms of the 1970s, there has been no requirement in Australian law for a marriage to be consummated through sexual intercourse, and no requirement that the spouses even be capable of consummation. The non-consummation of marriage as grounds for annulment or divorce was abolished in 1976, with the repeal of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 by the Family Law Act 1975.

    Rather than a punishment or stigma to be avoided at all costs, divorce has now become a human right. On their way to demanding “two people” marriages, Australian LGBTIQA+ activists demanded government recogition of “same-sex marriages” conducted overseas, because according to them, denying gay couples access to a no-fault divorce is a human rights violation.

    Christians and other Australians who don’t believe that “any 2 people” can marry, are free to practise marriage independently from the government’s civil marriage registry, with its legal divorce by “irretrievable breakdown”. A civil marriage doesn’t protect or honour a genuine marriage anyway, as Australian family law no longer detects or punishes the harm caused by adultery. Australia’s deregulated civil marriage practise doesn’t include a genuine one-flesh marriage, consummated by natural sexual intercourse, which no church can annul. A genuine marriage doesn’t need an expensive wedding ceremony, reception or government marriage certificate, whereas the legal fiction of “same-sex marriage” can’t exist without them.

  • I’m 20, and my parents are currently going through a divorce. My dad has moved out of the house and have rarely seen him for the past year. I am very concerned for the mental health of my parents in the coming years as they grow old and lonely, and I expect them (especially my mother) to want to spend more time around my brother and I as we try to move on with our lives and start families.
    I’ve known about the destructive effect of divorce on the family now for some years as it was Peter Hitchens who alerted me to it.
    Thanks for the daily articles, Bill. They are always interesting.

  • A devout Christian I knew was very appreciative of no fault divorce. It meant that he and his wife did not have to apportion blame or identify crime but after many years of prayer and effort could say we cannot live at peace together.
    Many very significant Christian leaders have had disastrous marriages. The most significant English figure of the 18th century Rev’d John Wesley lived apart from his wife for much of their marriage. He was only informed of her death [sleeping awaiting the resurrection] a few days later. There are of course well known local examples.
    Many religious people have further hurdles to jump Roman Catholics apply for an annulment from Rome, Orthodox Jews and Muslims may need a religious court clearance.

  • Thanks Travis, but seeking to defend easy divorce is neither conservative nor Christian. Just where in Scripture are we told divorce is peachy for the mere reason of ‘not living in peace’? What we do find in Scripture are God’s view on the matter, including Malachi 2:16 where Yahweh says “I hate divorce”.

    And you evidently did not bother to read my article, where I document the horrific suffering most children go through because of parental divorce. I would have thought this would be a real matter of concern, certainly to anyone who calls himself a Christian. And you mention just one example – while claiming there are many – of Christian leaders who had a rough go at marriage. But so what? That John was perhaps unwise to marry Molly in the first place is another matter, but the truth is Wesley did NOT divorce her, but sought God’s grace and help for a difficult situation, and a difficult wife. (And yes, he too could have done better as a husband.)

  • Compare to “turn around three times and say ‘I divorce you.'”

  • Travis, I would suggest there is a major difference between a separation, and a divorce. One provides space, the other severs the relationship. Scripture is quite clear that divorce is contrary to the will of God whereas separation was common – men going off to fight in wars for instance. True a forced separation is slightly different to a chosen separation but I’d suggest it an alternative approach to making a marriage work. Still something of a shock, but less traumatic than divorce.

  • Here’s a random chunk from the first chapter of G.K. Chesterton’s 1920 book, The Superstition of Divorce:

    Many quite disinterested people urge many quite reasonable considerations in the case of divorce, as a type of domestic liberation; but in the journalistic and general discussion of the matter there is far too much of the mind that works backwards and at random, in the manner of all windows and no walls. Such people say they want divorce, without asking themselves whether they want marriage….

    There is a certain kind of liberty which can only be found in being irrevocably bound to another person for better or for worse. No true liberty entails turning our “wild horses” loose to roam at will.


    Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
    Except you enthrall mee, never shall be free,

    – John Donne, “Holy Sonnet XIV”

  • Thanks Bill for this paper along with all the others about divorce.

    The moral & social landscape that we live in is unrecognizable when compared to that of any Bible and early church time. It is important then, for us to understand both the Kingdom Culture and our present culture, especially when it comes to applying one to the other and discovering how we should live.

    Firstly, since there is “no fault divorce” in our civil law, and it is no longer required to find “that action” or “that behaviour”, to trigger a divorce, we can stand back and ask, what is “irretrievable breakdown” ? Surely, for Christians, it will often be true that both are at fault.
    In that case both need the work of repentance, faith, and forgiveness, without which there is the “certain fearful expectation of judgement”.
    Marriage requires work, love, grace, commitment, and not a little unselfishness, since the ubiquitous “dying to self” applies here as well, & perhaps more here than elsewhere.

    Secondly, one of the commenters mentioned “adultery” as being the “essential marriage disqualification”. The “adultery” concept is popular and often taught, but the Greek is “porneia” i.e. “fornication”, and not “adultery” see Matt 5.32 and 19.9. “Fornication” includes adultery, but also all illicit (outside of marriage) sexual intercourse including, (but not only), incest, homosexuality, and bestiality. Some have summarised it as “sexual sins in general”. There is also a strong symbolic link to idol worship, and sacrilege. When the OT comes into discussion here, we need to more strongly consider loss of virginity before marriage. The standard for a “fault” is much more than adultery. Of course there needs to be room for genuine repentance and the possibility of real forgiveness here. We are not to live by the law only, that is why St Paul says on some of these matters, that it is his opinion. Another two discussions there!

    Thirdly; This is something that we modern westerners have thought little about, but I believe we should take into consideration when counseling those who have marriage, or divorce, and or re-marriage issues.
    Rousas Rushdoony says “The world often appears to be an easier place if I forgive where God requires judgement. Adultery and murder call for death, as does homosexuality. ‘Extenuating circumstances’ are always easy to find. The world becomes less frightening for me if God is made less harsh, or so it seems. If I undercut God’s judgement, I also undercut His grace. If I tamper with the law, it is because I have no law, and if I have no law, I am faced, not with freedom, but with death” Law & Society p671.

    One of his arguments in “The institutes of Biblical Law” pp395-415, is that there is “divorce through death”. There are some twenty sins for which the death penalty was proper in ancient Israel under Mosaic law. Those who had a spouse who broke such laws would be “divorced through death”, and able to remarry. In the OT and the NT and in the Apostolic age we see many examples of the death penalty being waved. One of the most famous is that of King David, for both murder and adultery.

    Much of the background to the bible teaching on divorce and remarriage includes the concept of “divorce through death”. Now! Look at our society! There is no death penalty for anything in Australia. For Australians there is now no release from a relationship with a criminal unless one obtains a divorce. But murder is not “fornication”. Does that mean, according to Jesus, that there is no release for the innocent and the Christian, in such a case? There are some churches who would say “no release” here, including two cases (attempted incest and attempted murder) that Rushdoony cites. Law &Society p 698.

    What about those other things for which there was a death penalty?
    There are those who would take a hard line here, but I think that we must use some understanding, not only of the words of scripture, but its cultural intention as well.
    This is another big discussion, and one that the church should have. We do not live with the givens of a culture that was 50 years ago, let alone one that is 2000 or 4000 years ago.

    The comment about Wesley, and others who lived apart, is instructive for those who find that the situation is untenable in the short term. Paul’s instruction about letting the unbeliever depart, and that the believer is not under compulsion, (1 Cor 7.12,15), needs unpacking (esp. in regard to re-marriage), but is also helpful in at least the short term.

    Divorce is terrible, and to be avoided if at all wise/possible/hopeful/safe.
    Divorce should be the last resort.
    Divorce is never without fault.
    Adultery is not the only legitimate reason.

  • I don’t mean to direct this at you specifically Bill, because I’ll admit you are an exception.

    But honestly I think the churches and Christian leaders in this country have been largely asleep at the wheel when it comes to this issue. And this is an issue with which churches could actually get a lot of mileage, even with the irreligious and secular – many of whom have experienced first-hand the pain and trauma of parental divorce, and if you could get to them an anti-divorce message I think they’d really listen, and that might even be an intro for them to consider other aspects of the Christian message. But I don’t think the churches have been trying very hard to get their message out on this topic.

    On the recent issue of redefining marriage a large number of Christian voices have been speaking out against it. But no-fault divorce has been with us since the Family Law Act of 1975, and I don’t think Christians in this country have ever spoken as much against that law. If only they could have campaigned against it in the same way they’ve campaigned against the latest amendment to the Marriage Act. (Of course, they may well not have succeeded, but merely trying harder to fight it would have made an impression.) I wasn’t even born yet in 1975, but I’ve looked for history of churches opposing it, and I haven’t found anything much.

    (I guess, one explanation, is that until very very recently the Christian churches have had a uniform consensus on opposing the redefinition of marriage, whereas Christians have never had the same degree of uniformity on the issue of divorce, with some denominations banning it completely and others willing to permit it in narrower or broader circumstances. It is harder for churches to work together against divorce when they don’t agree on exactly when to allow or disallow it, whereas it is easier on man-woman marriage since until very very recently they all agreed on that. Also, I guess, there has been a big activist push for marriage redefinition, and it is easier to fight against something when it is so blatant and in your face, whereas the push for easy divorce was carried out in a much more subtle way.)

  • It’s the only law on the books that punishes the innocent party. It’s much easier to get a divorce than to get fired from a job, even if you are incompetent at the job and are doing a bad job.

  • The other day I read an interview on the ABC website with a gay marriage activist. He claimed that gay marriages in Australia will turn out better than heterosexual ones, because they’ve had to fight so hard to gain marriage rights. Upstarts like him need to be put in their place.

    Having recently gotten married myself after many years of waiting, I’m determined to prove him wrong, and not be a divorce statistic. The enemy specifically targets Christian marriages. He knows that if he can break them up, he can destroy the credibility of our Christian witness.

  • The US is founded upon natural law, but no-fault divorce violates natural law. Natural civil law can be summarized as follows: keep your word. To grant a unilateral divorce to one who is obviously not keeping her word (the petitioner is almost always the wife) and by rewarding the contract violator financially and emotionally is horrendously immoral in every aspect – it’s harmful, unfair, disloyal, subversive, degrading, and oppressive.

    No sane culture would commit suicide in this manner.

Leave a Reply