Back in the 1960s, when lawmakers in California hammered out what would become known as the nation’s first no-fault divorce law, critics feared the legislation would clear the way for men to abandon wives and children and the responsibilities of married life in a stampede. Supporters of the legislation argued that no-fault would make it easier for unhappy couples to mutually decide to end their dead marriages.
The stampede never happened and the decision of divorce did not become any easier for most people, but no-fault did make one-sided divorce part of everyday life. Today, no one can force someone to remain married.
Very rarely do a husband and a wife simultaneously and mutually decide to call it quits. In many, if not most, divorces one spouse wants the divorce and the other does not: call them the leaver and the left. Divorce lawyers routinely face situations where one spouse tenaciously clings to a marriage even when the other makes it clear that over is over. Of course, the resister can drag his or her feet, exploiting the various ways any legal action can be stalled, but such tactics rarely right a capsized marriage.
Despite the pain and suffering, in most cases, given time, the person who is left comes to accept that the marriage is over. Divorce lawyers are not therapists, but very often they play this role so that their client can cooperate in the protection of his or her interests. In this arena of life, Thomas Jefferson’s observation about human pain remains eternal: “Time is the Great Physician.”