has not been committed, one spouse has not been abandoned or the marriage has not reached such a turmoil that it is unsafe or improper to expect the parties to continue to live together. Through no fault of either party, many couples may just fail to attain the ideal, and to keep them bound in legal relationships which have both social and economic repercussions is both unfair and potentially damaging to all involved. Furthermore, the fact that divorce can only be obtained by a finding of fault does not repair relationships that are not working. Rather, since divorce can only be obtained upon the finding of fault, parties to a failing relationship must enunciate fault grounds to obtain their freedom. This involves the inflaming of emotions as either party or both are forced to develop grounds for divorce and set those grounds into legal documents. It is obvious that after years of trying, neither the courts nor the Legislature can force people to maintain a relationship if they do not want to continue in that vein. It is about time that this fact is recognized in law.
Perhaps the most profound effect of requiring fault grounds for divorce is found in the area of domestic violence. While many believe that requiring fault to be proven before a divorce may be granted protects the victims of domestic violence, the opposite is true. The study “Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress” (Stevenson and Wolfers) (2006) indicates that No Fault divorce statutes actually have a very real effect on such matters as reducing female suicides and reducing domestic violence while also leading to a decline in women murdered by their partners. The study indicates that female suicide rates declined approximately 20% in states that have adopted No Fault divorce statutes while domestic violence reports of husbands against wives were reduced by more than one-third. Even domestic violence reports of wives against husbands were reduced significantly when a jurisdiction enacted a No Fault divorce statute. Clearly, providing couples with a “neutral” way out of their damaging relationships has tangible benefits to the individuals specifically and society in general.
There are many problems with the current system that requires the finding of fault before a divorce is granted. First, a spouse who lacks economic resources may be forced to remain in a marriage that is not working for them. Meanwhile, a spouse who has economic resources has the option of moving to a neighboring state to obtain a divorce under that state's "No Fault" statute. This disparity in options is magnified when children are involved. The spouse who is the