Some state and federal lawmakers believe that divorces are too common and too easy to obtain. They bemoan the devaluation of the sanctity of marriage and family caused by the growing popularity of no-fault divorces.
Fort Worth, Texas, Republican representative Matt Krause has filed two bills for this upcoming session that would make the divorce process more complicated. One would make Texas the first state to repeal its no-fault divorce law. The other would double the length of time for a divorce to become final.
How Delays Can Place Victims at Risk
Advocates for domestic violence victims argue that any laws that make it more difficult to get a divorce further endanger the safety of spouses and children who are victims of abuse. One advocate notes the everlasting effect of being in an abusive home on children -- even if they aren't the direct victims.
She says, "So many of those kids end up in our state's foster care system, juvenile justice system, or homeless." She adds that lawmakers who tout the importance of keeping families together "are either in denial or simply ignorant."
Another victims' advocate notes that spouses are most in danger during the period following a separation or divorce filing.
Rep. Krause acknowledges that they could lock victims into abusive environments while waiting for the divorce to be finalized. He says, "If we could find a way to protect them, I'm all for it, but I don't know how we would."
Requiring Fault Can Make Divorce Economically Unfeasible
No-fault divorces are generally less expensive than those where fault must be shown. Therefore, lower-income domestic violence victims may be unable to afford a divorce at all. Rep. Krause says he doesn't know how to ensure that everyone can get a divorce regardless of their economic situation.
It may be impossible to prove that no-fault divorce lessens domestic abuse rates. However, in the past ten years, states that implemented a no-fault option experienced decline in domestic violence, a 10 percent decline in women killed by their partners and up to 16 percent decline in female suicide rates.
While it's unlikely that these Texas bills will succeed, this is yet one more example of why elections matter and how lawmakers can impact the most personal areas of our lives. Of course, regardless of the law, if you and/or your children are being abused, it's essential to seek safety as well as legal guidance to protect yourself and your kids.
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