Nobody Wins When The Family Feuds: What the Survey Says About The Gravity of No Fault Divorce

By: E.A. Putman

Beyoncé’s cathartic Lemonade album followed by her husband Jay-Z’s remorseful 4:44 album should be a lesson on why Texas should maintain the no-fault divorce action. This past weekend, Houston welcomed home Beyoncé as one half of the Carter duo performing their sold out On The Run II Tour. The superstar couple powered through 

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Sunday, September 16, 2018 On The Run Tour II NRG Stadium Houston, Texas

an almost three hour set that showcased to everyone that in spite of marital strife, Everything is Love.  That’s Bey and Jay. And so many others who decide to not end their marriage.  But for 10.8% of the Texas population, the union was dissolved on at least one of several grounds for divorce–one which may be on the verge of extinction. 

 

In Texas, a spouse may file for divorce based on the following:

  • Insupportability/ Irreconcilable Differences (No Fault)
  • Abandonment for a year without intent to return (Fault)
  • Adultery (Fault)
  • Confinement in a mental hospital (Fault)
  • Cruelty (Fault)
  • Convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison (Fault)
  • Living apart for more than three years (Fault)

Prior to 1970,  no-fault divorce did not exist. Texas law required one of the spouses to declare a reason for filing for divorce.  With the introduction of no-fault divorce, couples were allowed to dissolve their union without proving that one of the spouses did anything wrong to break up the marriage. The reason became it’s just not working. The most recent legislative sessions introduced failed attempts to revert Texas back to a state where fault would have to be alleged (and proven) to finalize a divorce. 

It is undeniable that family law can bring out the worst in people and when there are feelings of remorse, revenge and rejection, the legal process shares the spotlight and sometimes even takes a backseat to a client’s emotional and mental package. Thus, if Texas becomes a state where a spouse must prove fault, the potential for an amicable proceeding and subsequent relationship (if children are involved) is severely diminished. Nobody wins when the family feuds.

If Beyoncé and Jay-Z were not….Beyoncé and Jay-Z…and their respective albums were divorce pleadings rather than a multi-million dollar churning catharsis, it would be the embodiment of the harsh framework of a fault-based divorce system: deceit, infidelity and blame rolled up in one tube.

On 2016’s Lemonade, Beyoncé laments “today I regret the night I put that ring on.” She ponders “something don’t feel right because it ain’t right.” And readily admits, she “found the truth beneath [] lies.” These lyrics, which allude to adultery, are what we will see and hear daily at 8:00 AM prove up dockets for an at-fault divorce. During promo for 4:44, Jay-Z admitted that both his and his wife albums were akin to “using [] art almost like a therapy session”. While these albums, which acknowledged their marital woes, subsequently helped repair their union, airing the nitty gritty details of the marital breakdown may not bode so well for regular people seeking a divorce. 

A system where fault-based divorce is the only option will be an open forum for the court to accept evidence relating to adultery, cruelty, felony conviction and abandonment which will include oral testimony, photographs, documents, screenshots, and in this age, social media. It will be Judge Lynn Toler’s Divorce Court replete with the dramatics.

Maintaining a no-fault based divorce system does not eliminate the need for fault based divorce. There are instances were an at-fault divorce is justified and should be alleged such as an equitable division of  high dollar value marital estate for an innocent spouse or an at-fault  spouse who exhibits violence and could be harmful to children. Additionally, some no-fault divorces may be rooted in fault, but spouses elect to plead insupportability to expedite the divorce process, save themselves or their spouse from scrutiny or because they have already worked out an equitable arrangement. If people who are able to allege and prove fault are agreeable to dissolution based on no-fault, then it is unnecessary to remove the ability for amicability. 

Eliminating no-fault divorce will not be a means to repair a marriage. When one or both spouses decide that the marriage has come to an end, it is best to proceed in the most peaceful way possible and many times that is to admit that a “marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” While the exposé albums of Mr. and Mrs. Carter worked to heal their union, if no-fault divorce is eliminated, the collectively 25 track sequence will become the transcripts of “simple” proceedings. And nobody will win when it is required that the family feud.

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