Divorce creates situations that tax the wisdom of Solomon. Judges struggle with nearly insoluble questions involving child custody and visitation, but no judge has the answer for the most common problem created by no-fault divorce: the sad reality that it takes two people to make a marriage, but only one to get divorced.
No-fault divorce works like a Doomsday machine because only the person who starts it can stop it. The party who wants out (normally called the “petitioner” or ”plaintiff”) has a right to divorce without permission of his or her spouse. Not wanting to be married to a person (which may be called “irreconcilable differences” or “irretrievable breakdown”) are grounds to end the marriage. No longer do couples have to go to war like the bad old days (the 1950s) where a spouse had to prove fault (such as adultery) in order to extract himself or herself from a marriage-gone south.
Under the law, marriage is a contract and laws protect the one who wishes to break it, not the one who wishes to continue.
In the United States today more than 80 percent of no-fault divorces are unilateral. This means that one party (normally called the “respondent” or “defendant”) objects to the divorce, yet has no say about ending the marriage. “It is easier to divorce my wife of 26 years than to fire someone I hired one week ago. The person I hire has more legal clout than my wife of 26 years. That’s wrong,” says Family Court Judge Randall Hekman.
The party who wishes to remain married has all the chances of success that Gen. Custer had at the Battle of Little Big Horn. The party has no legal recourse. He or she can drag out the action, or make it more expensive, or more unpleasant – but not stop it.
The antecedent causes for no-fault divorce reform happened when judges and divorce attorneys came to view the fault regime as a threat to the integrity of the Family Court System. Judges were tired of watching battling couples perjure themselves in order to receive a fault-based divorce. One longtime Pennsylvania judge called divorce court “liars’ club.”
Needless to say, unilateral divorce makes for great pain and suffering to the unwilling participant who often feels like he or she has tumbled head over heels into the Grand Canyon.
At the end of day, as is said, if one spouse wants out (call him or her the “dumper”) and the other spouse does not (call him or her “the dumped”), and no one changes his or her mind, there’s nothing to do but let go.
Hard as it is to accept, no one can force someone to love someone. And no one can force someone to stay married.