|What Can YOU Do To Reform Divorce? Eight Steps:|
Decide To Use Your Influence To Help
“Picture this scene. You are an 11-year-old boy. Your Mom and Dad have been drinking and you are awakened by their yelling. As you hear the sound of objects being thrown, you look into the living room. You see your Mom and Dad throwing things at each other. A heavy ashtray flies across the room, missing your Mom. I am the 11-year-old child who witnessed the scene,” said Pastor Bob Dailey who organized the creation of a Community Marriage Policy in
· To make marriage preparation more rigorous by requiring the taking of a premarital inventory, meeting with a trained Mentor Couple to discuss 150+ issues it surfaced and to teach couples skills to resolve conflict;
· To offer a marriage enrichment event annually at each church at low cost to give every marriage a booster shot on an annual basis;
· To restore troubled marriages by training couples whose own marriages had nearly failed, to mentor those in current crisis, saving 80% of them;
· Te reconcile the separated with a workbook course taken by the person trying to save the marriage to help him/her grow so much that they attract back their spouse; the course is taken with a friend of the same gender over 12 weeks who uses a Support Partner Handbook to know what questions to ask;
· To help stepfamilies to succeed by creating a Stepfamily Support Group, that saves 80% of marriages that normally break up at a 70% rate.
Are You a Victim of Divorce?
Are you an adult child of divorce with a similar story of pain? Are you old enough
to forgive your parents, which has to be Step One? (In the case of Rev. Dailey, his father’s drinking grew into full-fledged alcoholism after his divorce and he died in an alcoholic stupor when Bob was only 20, but not before Bob told his dad that he was forgiven for destroying his home.)
Just as Pastor Dailey turned his misery as a child into a marriage-saving ministry, you can become a leader in a movement to reform divorce. If you suffered from the divorce of your parents, did you realize that this experience may explain why you may have had difficulty building a lifelong marriage? Mike and Harriet McManus, co-founders of Marriage Savers, recently wrote a book. Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers, which provides evidence that the major reason couples cohabit rather than marry – is due to a fear of divorce, based on the experience of growing up in a family shattered by divorce or by a non-marriage. Perhaps you have lived through a personal divorce, so you know the pain that you would like see others spared of. Or perhaps people close to you, such as a brother or sister have suffered from an unwanted divorce.
However, to become a leader in reforming divorce, you must move to a new level of understanding – from a purely personal view of the harm of divorce – to comprehending why half of
Most Divorces Do Not Involve Major Conflict
First, it is important to realize that in 70% of divorces, there was no severe conflict as between Rev. Dailey’s parents. According to researchers Paul Amato and Alan Booth, nearly three-fourths of those who divorce have a marriage that seems as stable and happy as marriages which survive. Often, one spouse is surprised that a partner wants a divorce, because he/she is happy in the marriage. However, No Fault Divorce allows one person to file for divorce without citing any particular fault in the marriage. As noted earlier, No Fault Divorce should be called Unilateral Divorce, because it allows one person to unilaterally divorce the other.
Most Divorces Are Unwanted by One Spouse
In fact, research by Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin indicates that 80% of the cases, one partner does not want the divorce, but has it forced upon them. There is no violence, no adultery, no alcoholism, no abandonment – traditional, accepted ground of divorce. The law actually encourages divorce, because it allows divorce for insubstantial reasons. Often the spouse wanting a divorce simply says, “We drifted apart.”
However, the spouse trying to save a marriage will often offers to “do anything” to save their marriage – see a counselor or go on a marriage retreat such as a Family Life Weekend Marriage Encounter. In fact, two million couples have attended a Marriage Encounter weekend where four of five couples actually fall back in love. In one major study of 4,000 couples who attended Marriage Encounter, 45% of attending couples said their marriage were only “average” or “unhappy,” before the weekend retreat! Yet, nine out of ten attendees gave Marriage Encounter high marks for reviving their marriage. This is evidence that couples who drift apart can have their marriages revived.
Divorce Is Always Granted – Harming Children Profoundly
The law always allows the divorce to be granted if one person wants out. What was entered into by two willing people – can be terminated by one person even if no major fault is alleged, such as adultery, abandonment or physical abuse. If the couple has no children, that outcome is sad. However, what is truly tragic is if children are involved. They are the innocent victims of the selfishness of one parent who forced the destruction of the marriage. Research is unanimous on the harm of divorce to children. For example, here are three conclusions from Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions from the Social Sciences, written by the Institute for American Values in
1. Mental Illness: “Divorce typically causes children considerable emotional distress and increases the risk of serious mental illness. These mental health risks do not dissipate soon after the divorce. Instead, children of divorce remain at higher risk for depression and other mental illness, in part because of reduced education attainment, increased risk of risk of divorce, marital problems, and economic hardship.”
2. Suicide: The report notes that suicide rates are twice as high for divorced men and women as for their married counterparts. “In the last half century, suicide rates among teens and young adults have tripled.. The single `most important explanatory variable,’ according to one new study, `is the increased share of youths living in homes with a divorced parent.”
3. Crime: Even after controlling for such matters as race, mother’s education and neighborhood quality, “boys raised in single-parent homes are about twice as likely (and boys raised in stepfamilies are three times as likely) to have committed a crime that leads to incarceration,” reports Why Marriage Matters.
The Public Supports Reforms of Divorce
A TIME/CNN Poll reports that by nearly 2-1 (61% to 35%), the public believes that it should “be harder than it is now for married couples with young children to get a divorce.” Thus, you can be confident that the public will support your efforts to Reform Divorce.
First Reform: Replace No Fault Divorce with Mutual Consent
As noted earlier, the first essential way to Reform Divorce is for states to replace No Fault Divorce, which is an experiment that has proven its failure over the last four decades. If there are no allegations of major fault such as conviction of a felony, adultery or abandonment - and if the couple has children, a divorce should be granted only if both spouses are in agreement. That would reduce the divorce rate by 30% according to experts quoted earlier.
Second Reform: Replace Sole Custody with Shared Parenting
On March 30, 2008 a
What if the law required that both parents have at least one-third of the time with their children? I believe that in both cases, those children and their parents would be alive and happy. Of course these are extreme cases. However, it is the denial of a parent’s fair access to his/her children that has prompted thousands of parents to abduct their children and flee to another city. That, of course, deprives the person granted Sole Custody – of any custody. Two wrongs do not make a right. Most typically, a father gets to see his kids only every other weekend, and is thus virtually excluded from their lives. In more than half the cases, for all practical purposes, the children lose a father altogether. It is so discouraging to many fathers that they give up. Millions of dads have stopped seeing their children, marry someone else, and forfeit their right to be a dad because it is so frustrating to see their children only two or three days a month. There is a better answer called Joint Custody or Shared Parenting.
What Is Shared Parenting? Some weeks the division might be the children living with the mother during the week and from Friday night through Sunday afternoon with the father. Once a month the situation might be reversed so that the father would have a weekend off. Or the children might remain with a mother for a whole month if they are to be with the father for his two week vacation. If the children are infants, they might spend a large percentage of time with the mother, but with an increasing percentage of time with the father, as they grow older. Teenagers might live with the father during the week, and with the mother on weekends. The exact nature of the Joint Custody or Shared Parenting would be negotiated by each couple – as long as both parents have at least one-third time with their children. Experts estimate that Shared Parenting would slash divorce rates by another 20%.
Thus, Mutual Consent combined with Shared Parenting could slash your state’s divorce rate in half! If Reforming Divorce became a movement across the nation, 500,000 children would not see their parents divorce each year. That is a goal worthy of your best efforts.
What’s more, a new study, “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing,” estimates that taxpayers are paying at least $112 billion for family fragmentation. Thus, even a 1% drop in the divorce rate would save $1.1 billion.
What Can YOU Do To Reform Divorce? Eight Steps:
1. Meet Your State Legislators.
The odds are that your State Representative in the Legislature and your State Senator have never spoken with a constituent who asked for either of these two steps to Reform Divorce that could reduce your state’s divorce rate by 50%. Below is a table which provides data on how many divorces occurred from January-June for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 for most states. (Some states such as
2. Build a Citizens for Divorce Reform Committee
Ask your friends who have also suffered from a divorce as a child of divorce or as an adult to join you in this fight. If ten friends form a Citizens for Divorce Reform Committee, each of you could talk to 10 Representatives and 10 Senators. Create a Blog, and ask your ten friends to do the same. If each reaches out to ten new victims of divorce, you now have a Citizens for Divorce Reform Committee of 100 who could become a real political force. One place to start is might with the Children’s Rights Council, which has chapters in 27 states made up of activists who have had a divorce forced upon them. For more information, contact David Levy, 301 459-1220.
3. Hold a Press Conference
You could get press coverage if you held a press conference in your state capital, with your Citizens for Divorce Reform Committee, in front of the dome of the State Capitol. You could ask the appropriate committees of the Legislature hold hearings on the need to Reform Divorce. Give any state Representative or Senator who is willing to take the lead in fighting for reform, the visibility of speaking at your press conference. You could use data published in the new study, released on April 15, 2008, on the costs of family fragmentation, for your own state, “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing.” That would suggest how much taxpayer money could be saved in your state if divorce rates plunged in half. The home page of this website contains a link to the study. Or for a copy call the Institute for American Values, 212 246-3942, which will tell you to download the study, with state-by-state data.
4. Draft legislation
Legislative drafting is complicated. You need help from experienced experts, but unfortunately, many of the people with that expertise may not agree with reforming divorce laws. Legislators and lawyers will be very helpful, if they fully agree with your cause. You should also contact John Crouch of Americans for Divorce Reform, who is a “family law attorney,” or Mike McManus of Marriage Savers for drafting suggestions and advice. See three samples of legislation below. You can see other samples of reform legislation at www.divorcereform.org.
However, here are three versions of how No Fault Divorce could be replaced by a requirement of Mutual Consent if children are involved, and no major fault such as abuse, adultery or conviction of a felony are alleged: They are each relatively simple additions to current law. It should be added, however, that none have become law.
(1) there are minor children born of the parties born of either party and adopted by the other, or adopted by both parties, and (2) either party files a written objection to the granting of a divorce…”
“(a) there are living minor children of the marriage;
“(b) the parties have been married ten years or longer; or
“(c) one of the spouses contests the action.
5. Ask the Governor to Support Reforming Divorce To Slash Divorces in Half. No one is more visible than a governor in a state. His/her support would guarantee that Divorce Reform would be debated and considered seriously.
6. Create a Website Linked to www.ReformDivorce.org.
Each group of activists needs to have its own website that makes a case for reform, and keeps track of how the issue is faring. This website will offer to exchange weblinks with any group organizing in any state. Thus your work will inspire other states to follow your example. Think of your group as a “City on a Hill,” as Jesus put it, an example to others. For example, if you are in
7. Build a Movement
It is unrealistic to think that the “ignorance and fear” which dominates current thinking on Divorce Reform by state legislators can be overcome -- unless a grassroots Reform Divorce Movement is created with thousands of activists, all of whom call upon their state legislators to act on this issue. Here are several suggestions on how to create a movement.
a) Recruitment: Activists can be recruited from the 30 million adult children of divorce and the 50 million men and women who are under court orders due to a divorce, from clergy, social workers, and other leaders of the “helping professions” who see the impact of divorce every day, and even from grandparents who no longer have access to their grandchildren after a divorce.
b) Editorial Endorsement: Reforming Divorce is a new issue to the press. Leaders should make a point of asking to sit down with the editorial boards of local newspapers, and ask them to support the cause. Chances are, they will ask the activists to write a 750 word column making a case for such a step. If you write such a column, or if the newspaper writes an editorial in support, send it to this Reform Divorce website, and it will be posted here to encourage others to follow your initiative.
c) Candidates In an Election Year. Of course, 2008 is an election year. Ask your state Representative and Senator if he/she would support steps to slash
8. Set a Goal: Enact Reforms in 2009
Reform Divorce suggests that State Reform Divorce Committees set a goal of passing a law to enact Divorce Reforms in 2009. That means you must spark the movement for action during 2008. More than half of the year is already passed.
“The fields are white unto harvest, but the workers are few,” as Jesus put it.
Remember the Words of Malachi
Malachi, the writer of the last book of the Old Testament has searing words that should remain in the minds of activists:
“You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. “Why?” It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
“Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.
“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of
“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Table 2. Provisional number of marriages and divorces: Each state and Puerto Rico, cumulative figures for January-June, 2005–2007 by the
[By state of occurrence. Divorces include reported annulments]
Marriages January-June Divorces January-June
---Data not available.1Figures based on monthly counts and may be underreported.2Figures for marriages are licenses issued for some counties.3Figures for marriages in 2007 include estimates for some months because of underreporting.4Figures for marriages are marriage licenses issued.5Figures for divorces include estimates for some counties.
NOTE: Figures include all revisions received from the states and, therefore, may differ from those previously published; see ‘‘Technical Notes.’’
 The Bedford Community Marriage Policy was the 221st in
 The clergy of
 Mike & Harriet McManus, Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers, Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, 2008. A signed copy can be ordered for $20 by calling 301 469-5873.
 Paul Amato and Alan Booth, “The Anti-Divorce Revolution,” The Weekly Standard, December, 1997.
 Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Cherlin, Divided Families (Cambridge, MA:Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 22.
 George McIlrath, “Assessing Marriage Encounter,” Chapter 3 of a Doctor of Ministry thesis based on 30 academic studies, which came to a consensus that “Marriage Encounter programs have often received affirmations of 80% to 90% in post-weekend surveys.”
 “Worldwide Marriage Encounter: National Survey and Assessment,” a 1990 study by the National Institute for the Family,
 Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions from the Social Sciences, Institute for American Values, 2002, summarizes research such as that by E. Mavis Hetherington and John Kelly, 2002 For Better Or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered (
 Catherine E. Ross and John Mirowsky, 1999, “Parental Divorce, Life-Course Distruption, and Adult Depression,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 63 (1) 197 ff.
 Gregory R. Johnson , et al., 2000, “Suicide Among Adolescents and Young Adults: A Cross-National Compariosn of 34 Countries,” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 30 (1): 74-82.
 David M. Cutler et al., 2000. “Explaining the Rise in Youth Suicide,” Working Paper 7713 (
 Cynthia Harper and Sara McLanahan, 1998, “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration.”
 “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and All Fifty States,” a paper by the Institute for American Values, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Georgia Family Council, Families Northwest, April 15, 2008.
 See the comments by Chris Freund, V.P. of Virginia’s Family Foundation, quoted in #2 of these papers, “Major Obstacles to Reforming Divorce.”
 These are the very last words of the Old Testament. They can be the motto for the Reform Divorce cause.