Maggie Gallagher

New York's politicians couldn't manage to pass a budget before going on vacation for July 4th, but somehow they managed to take time to pass what they euphemistically called a "no-fault" divorce bill?

First, truth in labeling: This is not a no-fault divorce bill; it's a pro-divorce bill. New York state already has no-fault divorce, by mutual consent. What this bill does is permit one spouse to divorce the other for any reason, or for no reason at all. That's not no-fault divorce; it's unilateral divorce.

Why did they do it?

Gov. Paterson, who -- God bless him -- recently vetoed a stack of spending bills 2 feet high, told the Albany Times-Union that he will sign the pro-divorce bill.

Why?

New York has one of the lower divorce rates in this country. There are no signs that citizens are threatening to descend on Albany with pitchforks if legislators don't rush to alter the divorce law. The two things we now know for sure are that making divorce easier increases the divorce rate and that more divorce costs taxpayers more money -- not a great thing to do in a budget mess.

A recent review of the literature that professor Doug Allen and I did for the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy concluded: "No-fault divorce did increase the divorce rate. Seventeen of 24 recent empirical studies find that the introduction of no-fault divorce laws increased the divorce rate, by one estimate as much as 88 percent. More typically, studies estimate no-fault divorce increased divorce rates on the order of 10 percent."

Unnecessary divorce hurts children, and also costs U.S. taxpayers at least $112 billion a year in increased welfare and other social services to help contain the damages of family fragmentation, according to a recent study also co-published by IMAPP and the Institute for American Values (www.americanvalues.org).

So why did they do it?

The puzzle deepens because the same lies and half-truths that were used to justify so-called no-fault divorce statutes in the '70s and '80s are simply repeated by the bill's proponents as if we have learned nothing in the ensuing generation about the bad effects of divorce on children, society and even the taxpayers.

"It just gives another option and allows couples to divorce with dignity, where right now the system forces one of the members of the couple to be a bad person," said New York state Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, D-Manhattan, the bill's sponsor.


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.