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OUR FAULT SYSTEM OF DIVORCE IS A DISSERVICE, PARTICULARLY TO WOMEN AND POORER PEOPLE

Over the past 25 years, most states have moved to a “no fault” based divorced system which allows people to divorce for almost any reason. Mississippi has resisted this and only allows divorce without fault where both parties agree. This situation has lead to what one Supreme Court Judge referred to as “divorce blackmail.” If one spouse wants a divorce but does not have grounds, such as adultery or cruelty, the other spouse can run them around by the nose in negotiations and extort less than favorable results in exchange for freedom from the marriage. I have seen mothers accept inappropriate custody situations and I have seen many men pay way too much–often more than they can afford.

There are valid moral reasons to protect the institution of marriage. No one will deny that, but the practical effect of preventing divorce unless there are fault grounds or agreement is that many good people are harmed. In my practice, there is no question that the people who are most often harmed by this system are women; women who have dedicated themselves to the family and have no independent financial means. They are trapped in bad marriages. Of course, I have had some high wage earners trapped in marriages too, but they are often able to buy their way out.

The Courts and the Legislature can change this. The Courts could relax their stranglehold on the high level of proof necessary to prove cruelty. They choose not to. Right now, the Mississippi Legislature has the issue before it in SB No. 2652. Its not a very good bill because it requires 5 years of separation to divorce, but it is a start. I urge people to express their feelings to their legislature about this. You can visit a local new story on this topic on my YouTube channel. This story relates the damage this law has done to one family.