No fault divorce means that you can obtain a divorce without proving that either spouse has done something wrong. In Canada, the divorce laws were overhauled in 1968, and since then it has been possible to obtain a divorce without proving fault.
So, for instance, in Canada, you can obtain a divorce simply on the ground of one year of separation. Your spouse does not need to cooperate to give you the divorce. Your spouse does not need to sign any papers. You do not need to prove that your spouse has committed adultery or abused you or anything like that.
New York is the only jurisdiction in the United States without a no-fault divorce provision. Currently, they are considering introducing legislation allowing no-fault divorces. I read with some interest that the President of the New York chapter of NOW is opposed to this. She alleges that no-fault divorce is bad for women. The reasons she gives for this are:
1. Fault-based divorce is needed to give economically weaker spouses (normally women) leverage in divorce negotiations.
2. There’s proof of #1 – studies show that women are receiving alimony and the marital home less often under fault-based regimes than under no-fault regimes.
3. Erm, that’s it.
Interestingly enough, the situation is the reverse in Pennsylvania. There, political interests seem to be making inroads towards repealing no-fault divorce provisions. As a result, the President of the Pennsylvania chapter of NOW is opposed to this (even though the situation is the reverse of New York). She alleges that fault-based divorce is bad for women, although she doesn’t state her reasons. She simply implies that fault-based divorce will result in worse economic conditions for women.
So, there you have it, according to NOW, women will be poorer under a no-fault regime than under a fault regime, and women will also be better off under a no-fault regime than a fault regime. Talk about having your cake and eating it as well.
There are several problems with NOW’s arguments, and with arguments in general about requiring fault to obtain a divorce. I’ll be discussing these in my next post. As well, this debate is part of a larger debate regarding appropriate social and legislative steps to take to reduce the divorce rate. I’ll discuss this in a future post as well.