Tuesday, April 10, 2012

London lawyers want no-fault divorce

The NY Times reports:
LONDON — In her 30-odd years as a divorce lawyer, Vanessa Lloyd Platt has heard it all. The woman who sued for divorce because her husband insisted she dress in a Klingon costume and speak to him in Klingon. The man who declared that his wife had maliciously and repeatedly served him his least favorite dish, tuna casserole.

“It’s insane,” Ms. Lloyd Platt said. “These things should not have any part in the procedure.”

But they come up all the time in England, which unlike every state in America does not have a no-fault divorce law.

In one recent case, the husband accused his wife of spitefully tampering with the TV antenna and throwing away his cold cuts. She said he usurped her control of the washing machine and failed to appreciate her revulsion for “intensely farmed meat.” ...

How petitions are worded can make a huge difference. Sharon Bennett, a divorce lawyer in London, said that she advises her clients to use anodyne language or inoffensive trivialities. In one petition, a client said her husband was “obsessive in attention to detail and used to comb the fringes of the rug.”
It is misleading to say that the USA has "no-fault" divorce. Yes, the family courts will grant divorces unilaterally when one spouse alleges that there are irreconcilable differences, and the other spouse has no say in the matter. But if they have kids, then the court will scrutinize the most trivial charges, or as the NY Times says, "picayune matters", and try to determine who is at fault. It is unilateral divorce and judge-micromanaged parenting plans.

We have it backwards. There should be just cause for divorce, but no court interference of child-rearing. A marriage contract is not really a contract if either party can bail out at any time and for any reason. Usually it is the wife who files for divorce, and her reasons can be as trivial as the fringes on the rug. But if there is a divorce, the court has no business making child-rearing decisions.

In my case, my ex-wife had a complaint that the vegetables I usually served our kids were broccoli, potatoes, and asparagus. She asked the court-appointed gay shrink to investigate it, and he had no idea whether that was reasonable, so he wrote a proposed court order that I be required to consult a nutritionist about it.

There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding that American no-fault divorce laws of the last 30 years have taken picayune matters out of court. No, it has been the reverse. It has increased wives filing for divorce, destabilized marriage law, and turned the courts into arbiters of who eats broccoli.

1 comment:

Liaise said...

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