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New Oklahoma lawmaker seeks to end no-fault divorce

On Behalf of | Feb 27, 2024 | Family Law |

In recent decades, no-fault divorce has become an increasingly popular option for couples. Even if a spouse has one of the commonly designated grounds for divorce, like adultery or alcohol abuse, they may not want to use it.

Couples typically want to keep their private issues private. By agreeing to “no-fault” grounds like “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility” as it’s known in Oklahoma, they can part ways without accusations of wrongdoing or bad behavior that could be harmful to a spouse’s reputation, career or their relationship with their children.

There’s been a movement by some lawmakers lately, particularly in southern states, to end no-fault divorce. These lawmakers often claim that it makes ending a marriage too “easy.” By returning to a fault-based system, they hope to lessen the number of divorces.

The movement to end no-fault divorce in Oklahoma has previously been unsuccessful. However, a newly sworn-in state senator has revived it. He has filed a bill that would do away with no-fault divorce in our state. The lawmaker, who is also a pastor, has called no-fault divorce “an abolition of marital obligation.”

If his efforts succeed, anyone seeking to divorce would have to provide evidence that their spouse is guilty of one of the remaining grounds for divorce, including “unknown pregnancy” or “extreme cruelty.”

What harm can come from requiring someone to prove fault?

Advocates for domestic violence victims argue that this would make it more difficult for those in abusive marriages to escape because they’d have to prove the “extreme cruelty.” Further, those opposed to the bill argue the courts would become hopelessly clogged with spouses having to prove their grounds for divorce and getting a divorce would take longer and cost more.

One policy expert called the bill “one of the most embarrassing and appalling bits of legislation to trickle through a freshman legislator’s pen.” That policy expert, who got a no-fault divorce years ago, adds, “Divorce doesn’t have to be contentious. It doesn’t have to be about blame. It can be about the pursuit of one’s own happiness.”

The bill has a long way to go before becoming a law and plenty of opposition. However, as we’ve seen in recent years, lawmakers and courts can move quickly when they are determined to make change -– upending people’s lives in the process. That’s one reason it’s critical to have sound legal guidance if you’re an Oklahoman contemplating divorce.