AUSTIN, Texas (ChurchMilitant.com) - A bill in the Texas legislature is moving forward that would roll back one of the most disastrous laws of the past 50 years.
If passed, Texas House Bill 93 will remove the possibility of unilateral, no-fault divorce. The Texas legislature's committee for Juvenile Justice and Family Issues approved the bill on April 12.
Bai Macfarlane of Mary's Advocates spoke to Church Militant, expressing optimism that the "unjust" system of no-fault divorce would soon be replaced by a system supporting personal responsibility and marital co-operation.
"For Catholics, no-fault divorce is a breach on religious freedoms because Catholic canonical tradition and practice is that the upbringing of children should be managed by the innocent spouse in cases of separation," Macfarlane told Church Militant.
The bill will also ensure wastrel spouses are not able to skirt the marital obligation of mutual support.
Under the current no-fault regime, a spouse can get a divorce when he claims "insupportability," a legal term that essentially means a person does not want to take care of his spouse anymore. The spouse who claims insupportability is able to get a divorce with only perfunctory input from the other spouse. Judges are then entitled to dissolve the marriage, distribute property and take away children regardless of whether or not a spouse has been unfaithful, abusive or negligent.
The no-fault divorce regime has led to skyrocketing numbers of divorces, broken families and single parenthood. Where divorce rates were under 2 percent in 1970, when no-fault laws began to spread across the states, they now stand at over 40 percent. No-fault divorce punishes innocent spouses who would prefer to rehabilitate their marriage rather than separate, and rewards adulterers and abusive spouses who under the old regime faced less-favorable treatments when a divorce occurred.
The first no-fault divorce bill in the nation was signed into law by California governor Ronald Reagan in 1969, a move Reagan later admitted was the "greatest regret" of his political career. No-fault divorce was promoted by feminist organizations like the National Organization of Women under the guise that women faced increased threats of abuse and neglect in the fault regime. The facts show otherwise, however, as rates of domestic violence have ballooned under the system that allows men to leave a marriage on a whim and disincentivizes marriage in the first place.
Texas HB 93 was proposed by Representative Matt Krause, a Republican from Fort Worth. Krause hopes a more sensible law will cause married couples to try to work out their marriages rather than divorcing.
During hearings on the bill, constitutional law expert Shelby Sharpe explained how no-fault divorce violates due process protections, owing to the fact that it gives an innocent spouse no effective way to protect the rights given to her by marriage once the other spouse wants a divorce. Getting rid of the no-fault regime will ensure the innocent spouse is given a fair hearing in court and a chance to save her marriage.
Macfarlane notes that HB 93 would still allow uniliateral divorces where one spouse abandons the other for three years. But during that time, the innocent spouse may still be able to get much financial support.
Having made it through the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues committee, the bill now goes to a scheduling committee. If it is not voted on there, it will automatically move to be heard by the full House of Representatives.