You may not have been aware of it, but there is still one state where in order to get a divorce, it's not enough to want one; couples have to go to court and claim that one partner abused, abandoned, or otherwise mistreated the other. So which state is this - Alabama? Mississippi? Nope. It's New York:
The State Senate on Tuesday, clearing aside decades of opposition, put New York on a course to adopt no-fault divorce — the last state to do so. It approved legislation that would permit couples to separate by mutual consent, a major shift with sweeping implications for families and lawyers.
For decades, New Yorkers have been bedeviled by divorce laws that critics said prompted endless litigation and custody fights that were both unnecessary and cruel.
Under current divorce law, one spouse must take the blame, even if both sides agree that a marriage cannot be saved. To get a divorce, one party must allege cruel and inhuman treatment or adultery or abandonment, or the couple must be legally separated for one year.
Social conservatives blame no-fault divorce laws for the breakdown of the American family, and to a certain degree they're right. Divorce did become more common since no-fault divorce laws spread across the country in the 1970s. But these laws also represent a triumph of individual freedom over big-government conservatism. If two people want to dissolve their marriage, they shouldn't have to beg the state for permission, with the possibility that the state will tell them their reasons aren't good enough and they'll have to stay married. You'd have a hard time finding too many Americans who would want to go back to the way things were.
And who started this slide into our current hell of couples casting off their vows willy-nilly? The nation's first no-fault divorce law was signed in 1969 by California governor and well-known enemy of the family Ronald Reagan.
-- Paul Waldman