Stolen Vows

The Illusion of No-Fault Divorce and
The Rise of the American Divorce Industry

Contact Judy Parejko at
Divorce Resource Center
For those facing an unwanted divorce


Excerpt from Michael Reagan's New Book: TWICE ADOPTED

Chapter 2, A Broken World
Excerpt from pages 42-44


What can we do to prevent kids from being damaged by divorce? Well, the first and most obvious piece of advice is: Don't get a divorce! . . . . .

The problem is that we have made divorce too easy in our society. We have greased the skids of marriage so that it has become easy for people to slide away from their responsibilities, their marriage vows, and their duty to provide a stable, secure home for their children. And do you know who's responsible for making divorce too easy? Would you believe - Ronald Reagan?

Until 1969, almost every state in the Union had a fault-based system of divorce laws. (The lone exception was Oklahoma, which introduced no-fault divorce in 1953.) Under the fault-based system, a plaintiff (the aggrieved party in the divorce action) had to charge the defendant with certain actions that constituted grounds for divorce. These grounds might include mental cruelty, physical abuse, desertion, adultery, imprisonment, alcohol or drug addiction, or insanity. Without showing grounds for divorce, no divorce could be granted.

California's no-fault divorce law was drafted by Assemblyman James A. Hayes and signed into law in 1969 by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. The rest of the nation quickly followed California's lead. By 1974, forty-five states had passed no-fault statutes of their own. By 1985, every state in the union was a no-fault state. According to Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows: The Illusion of No-Fault Divorce and the Rise of the American Divorce Industry, Assemblyman Hayes "was responsible for doggedly pursuing [the no-fault divorce] bill because he was facing a divorce and he didn't like the rules at the time. Nowadays, his actions would be called a conflict of interest."

And why did Ronald Reagan, the pro-family conservative, sign such a law? I believe that some of his reasons were personal. Notice that Dad signed the no-fault divorce law some twenty years after going through his own divorce. His wife, Jane Wyman, had divorced him on grounds of "mental cruelty."
Even though listing grounds for divorce was largely a formality, those words were probably a bitter pill for him to swallow. He wanted to do something to make the divorce process less acrimonious, less contentious, and less expensive.

Dad later said that he regretted signing the no-fault divorce bill and that he believed it was one of the worst mistakes he ever made in office. That law set in motion one of the most damaging social experiments in the history of our nation. Not only did the divorce rate skyrocket as a direct result of the no-fault experiment, but divorce conflicts and legal costs remain as ruinous as ever. The acrimony in divorce has simply shifted to different issues. Instead of fighting over who gets blamed for what, couples battle primarily over custody, visitation rights, and child support.

According to a nationwide survey conducted by The Journal of Marriage and the Family, the divorce rate soared by 250 percent over a twenty-year period from 1960 to 1980. There is only one factor with nationwide implications that could have caused such a dramatic shift in the divorce rate: the national movement to no-fault divorce.

Michael Reagan's Definition of Divorce, from page 37:

"Divorce is where two adults take everything that matters to a child---the child's home, family, security, and sense of being loved and protected--and they smash it all up, leave it in ruins on the floor, then walk out and leave the child to clean up the mess."
- - -

The only problem with his definition is that it is usually ONE ADULT that does it.
-- Judy Parejko

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