By: Leslie Barrows
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A bill to eliminate no-fault divorce in Texas
In his effort to reverse a trend of negative effects of divorce on families, observed by Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, a one-page bill, filed in the current legislative session, would remove no-fault divorces from the Texas Family Code. The bill has been meet with both praise and criticism, prompting thoughtful discussion about marriage and divorce. There are several sides and points of view in a discussion about no-fault divorce. The Centers for Disease Control, keeping vital records on point, indicates three out of every seven Texas marriages end in divorce.[i]
Pleading grounds for a divorce in Texas
In Texas, you must allege grounds for divorce, one of which and the most commonly used is the no-fault ground of insupportability. When pleading insupportability, you are alleging conditions are unendurable, insufferable and intolerable. You do not need to prove the insupportability was anyone’s fault, it just is what it is, and you and your spouse will likely split the community marital estate 50/50 and be on your way. Does no-fault divorce make it very easy for one party to end the marriage, unilaterally? Absolutely. If you remove the no-fault provision, are you forcing someone to stay married against their will? That is an argument you are likely to hear in opposition of this bill.
The opponents to this bill argue that divorce cases will be more expensive to litigate if there are contested grounds. If you remove the no-fault provision, you are left to either decide or litigate as to who is at fault. There are several fault grounds that would remain on the books, even if no-fault is abolished.
Remaining grounds for divorce, aside from insupportability (no-fault):
- Felony conviction;
- Confinement in mental hospital;
- Living apart for more than three years.
Without the no-fault grounds, you or your spouse must agree on who is at fault or take your changes litigating the fault-based grounds for divorce. Opponents of the current bill suggest that people with financial limitations may not afford to hire a lawyer and get a divorce, they may not be able to defend their case without a lawyer, and the may be stuck in a bad marriage with no way out.
Some may agree it is too easy to get divorced and throw in the towel
On the other hand, proponents of removing the no-fault ground for divorce may tell you that making it more difficult to get a divorce (including financially), can help couples work harder at reconciling conflict. Supporters of this bill may also tell you about research findings that among people who were divorced, many participants asked, reported that they regret not trying harder to resolve conflict, and regretting an impulsive decision to ask for a divorce.
Why is it in the heat of passion we can say we want a divorce and believe that uttering those words mean that you and your spouse have passed the point of no return. For those who feel strongly about the sanctity of marriage and the idea that people are too quick to make impulsive decisions, a more difficult road to divorce may help save more marriages.
Meanwhile, even those who feel very strongly about marriage and working it out, might also agree that taking the no-fault grounds away feels like the enslaving of your spouse with no way out. While there is support for and against this bill, there is an opportunity to listen and learn. We may consider the legislative history behind the addition of no-fault divorce in Texas.
Of course, as there are developments in this piece of legislation and other similarly relevant news, The Barrows Firm will certainly share it with you all.
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[i] KXAN, Texas lawmaker hopes to keep couples together, ending ‘no-fault’ divorces. By Phil Prazan, Dec. 27, 2016.