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Marital divorce

Recent news items: Legalizing divorce. Making
divorce more difficult to obtain. Trends

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Prior to the mid-1960's, divorces were difficult to obtain. They typically required that one spouse be shown to be at fault. In some jurisdictions, the only ground for divorce was adultery. On 1970-JAN-01, California legislature introduced no-fault divorce. Couples in that state could separate and later divorce using marriage breakdown as their reason. It was no longer necessary to prove that one spouse committed adultery, engaged in spousal abuse, or some other behavior.

The concept of no-fault divorce was so popular that it quickly spread across the U.S. and Canada. Divorces then became easier and quicker to obtain. "Marriage breakdown" or "irreconcilable differences," generally became the most common grounds for divorce. The NCCUSL) wrote a model law — the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA) which many states used as a basis for a new no-fault divorce rate. By 1985, all states had a no-fault divorce law. The divorce rate rose to about 50% and has stabilized at that point in recent years. 7

Since the 1990's, organized opposition to no-fault divorce has gathered strength. Their goal is to introduce divorce restrictions in an effort to increase the number of marriages that survive. Pressure to restrict divorces comes primarily from social and religious conservatives. However, other conservatives oppose these restrictions because they would increase government interference in people's lives.

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News from 2002 to now:

Since no-fault divorce became available in most North American jurisdictions during the late 20th century, there have been relatively few developments in divorce law:

  • 2002-FEB: CO: Restrictive divorce bill introduced into the House: State Representative Dave Schultheis, (R-Colorado Springs) has sponsored House Bill HB 1337, the "Children of Divorce Protection Act of 2002." It would require couples with children to wait for 12 months , and to have completed six hours of marital counseling before obtaining a divorce. The bill was scheduled to be heard in the Civil Justice Committee on MAR-5. It did not proceed 1,2

  • 2002-MAR: IA: More power to family court judges: The Iowa State Senate will consider a bill which would:

    • Allow judges to send divorcing couples to mediation before granting a divorce, if the judge finds that a divorce would not be in the best interests of the children.

    • Lower the marriage license fee for engaged couples who have completed a pre-marital counseling course.

    • Allow engaged couples who have completed a counseling course, and who have obtained a marriage license to marry quicker.

  • 2004-NOV-16: NJ: Collaborative divorce bill introduced: A bill was introduced into the New Jersey legislature to promote collaborative divorce.

  • 2005-FEB-23: GA: Bill to extend waiting period: A bill was introduced to extend waiting periods for an uncontested divorce from 30 days to 120 days for a couple without children, and to 180 days for a couple with children. However, there would be no waiting period if one spouse has "obtained a protective order or alleged abuse in a formal statement." Some suggest that this will increase false accusations of spousal abuse.

  • 2006-MAY-12: CA: Divorce bill shelved: A bill to restrict public access to financial records in California divorce cases was shelved. It would have given former spouses free access to financial information but would prevent access by the public.

  • 2007-JAN-04: Europe: Divorce in the European Union: During 2006-Summer, European Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini proposed a new law that would relax divorce proceedings among all countries in the EU. The predominately Roman Catholic island country of Malta is the only country in Europe that does not permit their citizens to divorce. They refused to support the proposed law unless a clause is added that specifically excludes Malta. 4

  • 2007-JAN-04: VA: Conservative group wants to restrict divorce: Family Foundation of Virginia, the group that sponsored the constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex couples from ever marrying in the state of Virginia, and threatens the rights of unmarried couples, has now embarked on new projects. They propose to restrict the availability of divorce for parents. They propose a "mutual consent divorce" which would require both spouses to agree to a divorce before one is granted. No fault divorce in which only one spouse can initiate a divorce would be prohibited. In addition, divorces would be available in cases of abuse and cruelty. They also want to increase censorship in public libraries, and restrict abortions. 5

  • 2008-SEP-09: Mexico City: Legislators passed an "express divorce" law: It "... abolishes the list of necessary reasons for divorce, and allows either spouse to end the marriage simply by requesting it from a judge, who will terminate the union one month later." Opposition representative Jose Antonio Zepeda pointed out that the availability of 'express divorce' would subject at least one spouse to the threat of sudden eviction from their homes, according to the newspaper La Jornada.  In Mexico, the husband is often the legal owner of the couple’s property." 8

  • 2008-NOV-13: Divorce rates across the U.S.: The divorce rate, expressed as the number of divorces per 1,000 marriages per year, covers a wide range:
    • Nevada: 6.4
    • Arkansas: 6.1
    • Wyoming: 5.2
    • West Virginia: 5.0
    • Idaho: 5.0
    • Alabama: 4.9
    • Kentucky: 4.9
    • Oklahoma: 4.9 10
  • It may be no coincidence that:

    • Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate (2.2) and also has had same-sex marriages in place for the longest time of of any state.
    • None of the eight states with the highest divorce rates recognizes same-sex marriage.

  • 2008-NOV-14: USA: Divorce announcements becoming more popular: An increasing number of divorcing individuals are announcing their status via greeting cards, letters and E-mails. According to Divorce Lawyer Source:

"Marriage and divorce counselors have noted the benefits that announcing a divorce can bring, including a sense of closure and freedom. Additionally, according to professionals, marking the end of a divorce can aid the healing process and result in increased emotional support from an individual's circle of family, friends and coworkers. However, divorce attorneys point out that a divorce announcement can adversely affect a judge's outlook in a custody battle, and they have cautioned their clients to not send out such an announcement prematurely." 9

  • 2010-JAN-14: OK: State Rep. Sally Kern (R) had scheduled the introduction of House Bill 2279 that would restrict the "use of incompatibility as ground for divorce" in Oklahoma. 6

  • 2010-NOV-09: NC: Five attorneys form "Separating Together" group: The group restricts: "... their family law practices to respectful and dignified divorce services, such as Collaborative Divorce, Mediation, and Divorce Consulting, and they avoid exposing their clients to the stress of litigation. The services provided by these Raleigh divorce attorneys help guide both high and low conflict clients toward mutually beneficial agreements for legal separation, divorce, co-parenting plans, and property distribution. The purpose of these non-adversarial and respectful services is to allow families to move forward with the ability to communicate and co-parent effectively. After years of resolving divorce cases through litigation, Jeff Seigle, co-founder of Separating Together, says, 'I was involved in the adversarial process where there was normally a winner and a loser. The spouses were left financially and emotionally bereft by the court system. They had not learned how to work together, so they had to go back to court to resolve additional co-parenting and financial support differences that arose over time'." 11

  • 2011-MAY-29: Voters in Malta prefer to allow divorce: There are three countries in the world that currently do not allow divorce: Malta, the Philippines, and the Vatican. Since no divorce is possible, a couple's only option is usually to separate. Some couples can obtain an annulment. This is a complex process that can take up to nine years, and is only possible if the couple has grounds to request one. This means that remarriage can be impossible. This had led to some real hardships. For example, in one case a man who was living together with a woman went to Egypt because of an urgent family matter. He is not allowed to come back to Malta because his wife -- from whom he has been separated for many years -- will not sign papers allowing him to return.

    The lack of provision for divorce is traceable to the Roman Catholic Church's belief that a valid marriage is a permanent sacrament that cannot be terminated. All three countries are overwhelmingly Catholic. On MAY-29, voters in Malta voted 52.6% in a non-binding referendum in favor of allowing couples to divorce after four or more years separation. Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, whose party opposed divorce, said that: "The referendum outcome is not what I wished for, but the will of the majority will be respected and parliament will enact legislation for the introduction of divorce."

    Malta is 85% Catholic and 72% of voters say they attend Sunday Mass regularly. There are allegations that the Church attempted to use blackmail to obtain a No vote by threatening to withhold the sacraments from anyone who voted in favor of divorce. The Maltese church's bishops issued an unprecedented statement just after the polls closed. It appeared to apologize for some of its conduct during the referendum. The statement read: "To all those who had an active role on both sides (in the referendum) we wish to express regret if anyone felt hurt by words or actions from members of the Church. Also we assure everyone that we unconditionally forgive those who we feel have hurt us."

    Deborah Schembri, chairperson of the Yes campaign said: "The Maltese have voted to give themselves more civil rights. ... People are looking for a more tolerant church and the church hasn't been that. They apologized at the very last minute, and that's not right." Currently 7% of Malta's citizens are separated. Marriage breakups are growing with the ratio of separations to marriages reaching 27% in recent years. 12,13

  • 2011-MAY-30: Philippine Parliament to debate whether to allow divorces: The Philippine House of Representatives is scheduled to start debate on 2011-JUN-01 of a divorce bill. Representative Luzviminda Ilagan had introduced a bill during 2010-JUL. It would allow couples to divorce who had been separated for five years, or have been legally separated for two years, or who had experienced irreparable breakdown of their marriage because of psychological incapacity, irreconcilable difference, or inability to comply with essential marital obligations. 14

Times of Malta reports that:

"The outcome of the divorce referendum in Malta has made the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Philippines even more determined to ensure that divorce is not legalized in the Philippines."

" 'It is very unfortunate what happened in Malta but it also makes us even more resolved to protect the institution of marriage,' Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Commission told the Filipino media."

"Meanwhile, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz  said the proposed divorce bill was 'anti-Filipino'."

"The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said legalizing divorce would lead to more broken marriages in the country."15

Fr.  Castro said that making divorce available would give couples as easy way out of their marriage instead of staying together and working together on their marriage. He said:

"They divorce their first, second, third spouses because they have this image of the ideal spouse. If the marriage falls short of that image, they will separate. ..."

"If a court proves that there is psychological incapacity, the marriage is annulled. But then why should they be allowed to marry again? We just pass on the problem to the next marriage." 15

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  1. Kristie Rutherford, "Marriage-strengthening Bill proposed in Colorado," Focus on the Family, at:
  2. Dave Schultheis, "Q&A on 2002 Children of Divorce Protection Act," at:
  3. Charles Hurley, "It's Do or Die Time," Iowa Family Policy Center news release, 2002-MAR-6.
  4. Gudrun Schultz, "Malta Threatens to Block EU Divorce Changes Unless Legal Opt-out Clause is Included,", 2007-JAN-04, at:
  5. Tim Craig, "Foundation Wants Stricter Rules for Splits," Washington Post, 2007-JAN-05, at:
  6. "Kern bill would restrict divorce," Our Campaigns, 2010-JAN-04, at:
  7. Judy Parejko, "Stolen Vows: The Illusion of No-Fault Divorce and the Rise of the American Divorce Industry," Instant Publishers, (2002). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  8. Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, "Mexico City Passes “Express Divorce” and “Gender Identity” Legislation," LifeSiteNews, 2008-SEP-11, at:
  9. "Divorce Announcements Gaining in Popularity,"Divorce Lawyer Source, 2008-NOV-14, at:
  10. "Divorce around the World," Divorce Lawyer Source, 2008-NOV-13, at:
  11. "5 Raleigh Divorce Attorneys Join Separating Together, Inc., a Raleigh Collaborative Law Practice Group," PRWeb, 2010-NOV-09, at:
  12. Sandro Contenta, "Malta votes 'yes' on divorce," The Toronto Star, 2011-MAY-30, Page A7. Online at:
  13. "Malta votes yes to legalising divorce," Mail & Guardian online, 2011-MAY-30, at:
  14. "The race is on - Philippine Parliament to consider divorce!," Times of Malta, 2011-MAY-30, at:
  15. "Philippines must not follow Malta, Church says," Times of Malta, 2011-MAY-30, at:

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Copyright © 2001 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-MAR-5
Latest update: 2011-MAY-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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