Eagle editorial: Keep noses out of divorces

02/14/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:22 AM

State lawmakers should have better things to do than to stick their noses in other people’s divorces. And if they don’t, maybe it’s time to cut the session short and go home.

Rep. John Bradford, R-Lansing, authored a bill that would remove “incompatibility” as a valid reason for divorce. The bill was introduced last week to the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe.

Bradford says the bill would not end “no-fault” divorces. Rather, in place of incompatibility, the bill outlines other reasons for couples to divorce: adultery, felony convictions, abandonment of the home for one year, physical or sexual abuse, living separately, failure to perform “marital duty or obligation,” and mental illness.

But Bradford’s own website bragged that the bill “effectively ends what we know as ‘no-fault divorce.’” Esau also described the bill’s intent as eliminating no-fault divorce.

“No-fault divorce gives people an easy out instead of working at it,” Esau said.

No doubt some people divorce too quickly, but most people don’t rush into it. And forcing everyone to disclose specific reasons for wanting to divorce can make a painful situation even worse.

Morgan O’Hara Gering, a family law attorney in Wichita, told The Eagle that the bill would make divorces nastier by requiring someone to prove his or her spouse’s fault in court.

“It could create a lot more litigation and a lot more headaches … just to fight about who’s to blame,” she said.

Such bitter fights could be particularly detrimental for couples with children who will continue to parent together.

Though the divorce rate increased after the introduction of no-fault divorces nearly 50 years ago, domestic violence and female suicide declined, as women no longer felt trapped in abusive marriages. And the divorce rate has declined in the past decade, without any legislative meddling.

Dictating the reasons a person can get a divorce is not the Legislature’s job. As Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said: “We really should let people decide when to end relationships.”

That ought to resonate with lawmakers who say they believe in liberty and limited government.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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