2018 | Week of February 26 | #1244
I was surveying greeting cards recently just kind of casually looking at the humorous ones when a a subject heading caught my attention: divorce. What had been a time of enjoying some good humor came to an abrupt halt.
I don’t see anything humorous in divorce. I don’t see any reason to celebrate it, as I’ve heard some doing with having divorce parties. Divorce is ugly. It breaks up the most intimate of human relationships—marriage—and it destroys families. Its reach is far beyond the couple and any children involved. Its effects are felt not just while the legal aspect is being worked out. Oh no. Its effects are felt for years and years, especially when children are involved. What’s funny about any of that or worthy of celebration?
I’m not being idealistic. I know sometimes divorce happens after years and years of enduring abandonment, adultery or abuse—and tragically divorce becomes just about the only option. But that’s not the case in the vast majority of divorces.
Wisconsin’s divorce laws are about the worst in the nation. We have both no-fault and no-contest, which means the person seeking the divorce doesn’t have to show cause or fault—like abandonment, abuse or adultery—and the other spouse cannot contest or challenge the divorce. Basically no judge can deny a divorce in our state.
Marriage is the foundational institution of every society. It is the very best place for children—the next generation—to be born and nurtured, something every society needs to be concerned about. As such government ought to be doing everything it can to encourage marriage and discourage divorce.
Our Republican-led state Assembly doesn’t agree. Late last year they passed a bill, on a voice vote, that doesn’t just reduce the current six-month waiting period for remarriage after a divorce, but completely eliminates it. We believe six months before remarriage after a divorce is a prudent amount of time, especially when children are involved. About half the divorces each year involve minor children.
I testified against the bill and was the only one to do so. The author of the bill Republican Representative Cindy Duchow was not happy with me. When I mentioned in the hearing that the well-being of children needs to be carefully considered before this change happens, she responded, ‘Who are you to be telling us what is good for children?” I reminded her that it wasn’t me, but that social research shows that divorce is very hard on children and that what is best for children is to be brought up in the homes of their married biological moms and dads.
It didn’t matter. Every Republican on that committee—except one—voted in favor of the bill. By doing a voice vote rather than a roll-call vote when it came to the full Assembly, everyone is protected or guilty, depending on your perspective. Guilty is how I view it.
When average citizens learned we opposed the bill, we got some interesting responses—all of which, including that from Christians, basically said, how dare we be part of forcing people to live in sin. In fact, one person who testified in the public hearing actually said that. Just think about what they are saying—about themselves.
The six-month waiting period is especially important when minor children are involved. Imagine the adjustments they are being asked to make—all while their world has been turned upside down—never to be truly set right again. Waiting before remarrying is wise and considers kids. And oh, by the way, does anyone care that remarriages are considerably more likely to end in divorce than first marriages?
The bill in question has not had a hearing yet in the Senate, and I hope it doesn’t have one in these final weeks of the session. This is a bad-idea bill that needs to go away.
If we are going to do anything regarding divorce, we ought to modify our laws so that couples with minor children who want a divorce must, early in the process, take classes in the effect of divorce on children—not on themselves—but on the truly innocent victims. We should also require that the spouse seeking the divorce prove cause or fault—abandonment, abuse or adultery—and let the spouse not seeking the divorce contest it.
Our culture is doing everything it can to kind of glamorize divorce—to make it look easy and without both short-term and long-term effects. But that’s a lie. It’s adults trying to rationalize their behavior and their choices. Adults can share funny cards and have parties, but I don’t think many kids going through a divorce see any humor or anything worthy of celebrating.
For Wisconsin Family Council, this is Julaine Appling reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”