Ronald Reagan's No-Fault Divorce System

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Many people today feel that, in 1969, Governor Ronald Reagan made what turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes of his political career. He signed the nation’s first no-fault divorce law, introducing an alternative to the now defunct fault-based divorce system. Prior to this law, couples could only file for divorce if a fault, such as adultery or cruel or inhuman treatment, had occurred. Sanford N. Katz, a Professor of Law at Boston College who received his A.B. from Boston University and J.D. from the University of Chicago, insists that divorced Americans suffered under the fault-based divorce system. He says fault-based divorce commonly led to secret collaborations between attorneys, judges, and defendants, and influenced the assignment…show more content…
Since the inception of the no-fault law, divorce rates in America have increased. Wardle found that twenty-five of the thirty-five states with no-fault divorce laws in effect before 1980 experienced increases in divorce rates. In eleven states, the rate of divorce was more than twice the previous rate of increase (Wardle). Michael S. Berger, a Columbia University graduate with a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion, believes the entire family suffers when the parents are unhappy or are in conflict. However, the parent’s respective happiness should not be the sole basis for the decision to dissolve the union (Berger). Of all parties involved in a divorce, children have fared the worst. Jennifer Tyree, who received her B.S from the University of Tennessee and her J.D. from The American University, believes the innocence of childhood evaporates the day the parents announce divorce (Tyree). Step-families, a decline in income, a stressed single parent, or a family move are all dramatic adjustments for children. Today, the high school drop out rate of children with divorced parents is thirty-one percent, compared to thirteen percent for children with married parents (Wilcox). When divorces are handled in court, it is not uncommon for the judge to make biased decisions on factors such as child custody and property. An unjust divorce leads to bitterness between spouses. In many cases,…show more content…
Tougher reforms and divorce laws may incline people to avoid rash commitments to marriage (Berger). Larry Spain, a Professor of Law at Texas Tech University, believes that the lack of any unified basis for the granting of alimony has led to inconsistent decisions on spousal support (Spain). Equal treatment for both spouses, an extension of the Federal Healthy Marriage Initiative, and expanding the child tax credit are all future actions legislators can take to improve the effects of the current divorce law. Wilcox feels that equal treatment of both spouses can be achieved if courts are allowed to factor in spousal conduct and provide the divorced spouse with preferential treatment. The Federal Healthy Marriage Initiative can strengthen marital and family relationships by providing low-income families with the programs they need to sustain their marriages and build relational skills (Wilcox). Raising children is expensive. Expanding the child tax credit will provide additional financial relief to low-income
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