No One To Blame

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Yesterday the State Senate passed a bill to adopt no-fault divorce. New York State would be the last state to adopt the measure, if it is passed the Assembly. To explain a little history:

For decades, New Yorkers have been bedeviled by divorce laws that critics said prompted endless litigation and custody fights that were both unnecessary and cruel.

Under current divorce law, one spouse must take the blame, even if both sides agree that a marriage cannot be saved. To get a divorce, one party must allege cruel and inhuman treatment or adultery or abandonment, or the couple must be legally separated for one year.

The bill would allow for no-fault divorce after a marriage has been “irretrievably” broken for half a year or more. In this case, the parties would not need to identify a fault, like adultery or abandonment.

New York’s failure to permit more accessible divorce has long been denounced as archaic, but longtime opponents of “liberalization” have included the Catholic Church and the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women.

It might surprise you to see NOW on that list. Marcia Pappas is the president of the National Organization for Women of New York State, she wrote yesterday on the Room for Debate blog her rationale:

Under “divorce on demand” legislation sponsored by Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, either party can go into court, say the marriage has broken down, and get a divorce — no grounds are necessary. Approximately 95 percent of divorce cases in New York are resolved by the parties themselves, not by the judge, without going to court. This is the best possible process.

No-fault takes away any bargaining leverage the non-moneyed spouse has. Currently she can say, “If you want a divorce I’ll agree, but you have to work out a fair agreement.”

That is not “blackmail” as has been claimed by some no-fault proponents. Negotiating the terms of the breakup of a partnership is the way partnerships are dissolved in the business world. Women should have the same protection.