Lower the Divorce Rate

August 24, 2000

Researchers at two prominent think tanks are calling for lowering the divorce rate by one-third for families with children by the end of the decade. Patrick Fagan and Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation believe this is a realistic goal which "would immediately focus national attention on the severe problems related to divorce."

In the early 1970s, no-fault divorce swept the country, explains Bridget Maher, who recently published a Family Research Council paper on divorce reform. Although no-fault divorce was intended to make the process fairer and less hostile, the reforms created "a shift in power" in which the "right to divorce" won out over the commitment to stay married. Four out of every five divorces are unilateral, in other words requested by just one spouse.

Maher lists various solutions. These would include "covenant" marriages which are harder to escape than traditional marriages, as well as laws requiring "mutual consent" for divorce. It would also include predivorce counseling. Fagan and Rector propose tax credits for parents in long-term marriages, marriage summits, community marriage-skills programs, and laws to require both spouses to "mutually consent" to the divorce.

Fagan and Rector suggest that our financial priorities are out of sync. Federal and state governments spend $150 billion a year to subsidize single parenthood and $150 million to strengthen marriage. In other words, for every $1,000 spent to deal with the effects of family disintegration, only $1 is spent to prevent that disintegration.

Reducing divorce and unwed childbearing "would not only be good for children and society but, in the long run, will save money," they argue. Children of divorce are more likely to be at risk for various problems and behaviors than children in intact families. I applaud these researchers for focusing attention of the divorce culture in America.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.