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No-fault divorce in Massachusetts could save lives

The fact that some marriages end in divorce is a reality that all couples thinking of marching down the aisle must consider. Some states are beginning to wonder what actions can be taken to reduce the divorce rate. While states such as Massachusetts have found no-fault divorces to be effective, one state has even proposed removing the option for couples who have young children.

In a no-fault divorce, one spouse can obtain a divorce even if the second spouse does not agree and was not otherwise considered to be at fault legally. The spouse does not have to prove that the other spouse has somehow behaved inappropriately by engaging in such acts as abusing the spouse or committing adultery. Before states had this option, both spouses had to agree prior to the start of proceedings or one had to prove the other was guilty of some form of inappropriate behavior.

While opponents believe no-fault proceedings lead to a higher rate of divorce, proponents argue that removing such an option could actually endanger lives. For example, by removing the no-fault divorce option, an abused woman would have to prove that abuse had actually occurred. Some women who are unable to afford legal representation could end up stuck in an unhappy, abusive marriage. Studies show that since enacting no-fault divorces, the rate of domestic abuse has significantly declined.

Despite claims that the option of a no-fault divorce leads to increased rates, a study by National Bureau of Economic Research shows that the option actually decreases the rate and creates healthier marriages. It is important that legislators and other advocates look for ways to keep families intact and happy; however, it is always important to carefully examine any potentially unintended ramifications of such actions. Currently, all states, including Massachusetts, still have the option of pursing a no-fault divorce.

Source: The Washington Times, “No-fault divorce laws save lives,” Myra Fleischer, May 16, 2013

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