Prayer for Rescue from Enemies. A Psalm of David.
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.
Take hold of buckler and shield
And rise up for my help.
Psalm 35:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Blogger’s Note: the discussion that follows reflects only my own research and independent thought, and does not necessarily reflect the advice of my attorneys. (Wherever a legal term with significant meaning and constitutional implication has been used in general discussion, it is bolded and italicized. On the other hand, wherever gratuitous terms from the statute are used that are vaguely defined, and are accepted as true by assertion and inference only – example: “irretrievable breakdown”, they are left in normal font. )
Two elements render unilateral divorce laws unconstitutional in all or most states:
(1) availability of “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for dissolution of marriage in contested cases
(2) the exclusion of marital fault as a factor in determining disputed property and child welfare matters
These elements violate several constitutionally-protected fundamental rights owed to non-offending Respondents in a divorce case, and do so without a compelling government interest.
Innocent spouses who have found themselves on the receiving end of an offending spouse’s unilateral divorce petition are treated civilly by the court only so long as they don’t contest the “irreconcilable differences” allegation, and don’t mind splitting the marital estate 50/50 regardless of serious fault or financial abuse . Sometimes Respondents can work out something more favorable than 50/50 with a fair-minded spouse. Often, however, due to the Petitioner’s spite, which is enabled by the resulting unbalanced legal preference afforded when marital fault is excluded by statute from being considered in property settlement, or by unscrupulous influence from the opposing attorney, or by depleted assets due to the offending spouse’s gross financial abuse, and/or biased early rulings by the judge, a compensatory split is not possible and a trial ensues to preserve constitutional protections. (In this Respondent/”stander’s” case, it was all of the above circumstances.)
If you are a religious or moral objector to divorce, or there has been significant financial abuse that the court wrongfully declined to consider, a constitutional appeal may be appropriate. Forty-plus years of such cases challenging the constitutionality of the state laws have failed in appeals because the aggrieved spouse and their attorneys may not have realized what is required for the courts to actually give a Respondent’s constitutional rights sufficient consideration to outweigh the legislative objectives of the enacted laws. Case law defining these terms in a way that could be beneficial to non-offending divorce Respondents, as a class, has only emerged fairly recently, particularly in cases involving marriage rights. (See Part 1 and Part 2 of our Constitutional Case History.)
What follows below are some legal definitions and case citations that may be useful to a Respondent in seeking constitutional relief against the sort of judicial favoritism overwhelmingly shown to Petitioners under the prevailing system. These definitions may help in persuading a judge to go beyond applying a “rational basis” standard of review to the appeal. If this can be accomplished, the civil authority must then bring evidence that the results of the law match the intent of the law, and that there was not a more effective and less constitutionally-invasive alternative of accomplishing the objectives of the law.
It is very difficult to get consideration as a disfavored class outside of religious or race/gender/nationality protections, but once this is achieved, it becomes pretty difficult for the state to meet the more discerning and demanding tests that result. Someday, sooner or later, this overlooked issue will topple a state’s unconscionable unilateral divorce laws. High courts normally require “narrow tailoring” of a law to meet its stated objective, but various features of existing “no-fault” laws generally paint a very broad brush stroke, with widespread disparate impact, in order to favor a small ideological minority such as homosexuals or battered spouses at the expense of everyone else, including taxpayers and society at large.
Respondent – the term given to a defendant in a civil divorce case as a result of the unilateral divorce laws. Respondents seem to need a special name to denote for the legal community the singling out versus ordinary defendants because they have fewer constitutional protections than any other class of civil or criminal defendant. This is in order to give intentional legal preference to the Petitioner in the event the litigation is contested.
Standard of Review – a defined process courts must follow to determine whether there is sufficient justification to impair the 14th Amendment constitutional protections of an individual adversely impacted by a law that favors one group over another
Strict Scrutiny – the most favorable standard of review to Respondents as a class, or as individuals who have been denied their fundamental rights (religious expression, parental sovereignty, family privacy, defense against a civil charge, defense of property). For a law to pass the test as constitutional under this level of review, the civil authority must prove that the law serves a “compelling” purpose, and that the means chosen to accomplish that purpose is the “least restrictive” alternative available. This more exacting standard of review must be applied where a Respondent demonstrates that a clearly-defined fundamental right has been impaired or denied, or that their free exercise of religion has been substantially burdened. (See also “RFRA” below).
Heightened Scrutiny – standard of review that is analogous to Strict Scrutiny.
Korematsu v United States (1944) U.S. Supreme Court (heinously, the compelling interest test was deemed to be met which allowed the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII)
Burwell v Hobby Lobby (2014) U.S. Supreme Court Korte v Sebelius (2013) U.S. 7th Circuit
“Suspect Class” & “Quasi-Suspect Class”– an aggrieved class of citizens who are deemed by the court to be entitled to the protection of a heightened standard of judicial review due to one or more of several factors:
To prevail here, it needs to be shown that Respondents can be identified as a minority class that shares much of the following experience….
(1) longstanding pattern of animus or systemic discrimination, (2) politically weak and legislatively / societally disfavored, (3) some disfavored immutable characteristic or other characteristic not within their control: race, gender, nationality, deeply-held conviction about the indissoluability of marriage, etc. (4) the characteristic bears no relation to their ability to perform or contribute to society.
Where a quasi-suspect classification is established, intermediate scrutiny applies. Here the burden shifts to the state to prove that the law serves an “important” governmental objective that could not be met without the means chosen, and that there’s a close fit between the outcome of the law and its claimed objective. We all know by now that unilateral divorce laws cannot stand up against that kind of scrutiny due to the range of well-documented perverse outcomes, and due to the varying ways these laws have been enacted in different states, especially in that not all states apply marital fault to child custody and property division yet still enforce no-fault grounds.
Kerrigan v Public Health Commission, CT Supreme Court, (2008), pages 5-40 of embedded link, which in turn cites several Federal cases.
Varnum v Brian, IA Supreme Court (2009)
Intermediate Scrutiny – standard of review that is moderately protective of the constitutional rights of Respondents where the burden of proof is also with the civil authority which must prove the law serves an “important” interest which could not be achieved in the absence of that particular law, and the law actually has a close enough fit with its objective such that it actually achieves that interest or result. Presumably, a Respondent can bring refuting evidence around the last two points, since years of evidence have stacked up in every state that unilateral divorce works against the stated purposes in the statute, and have produced the exact opposite of the objectives espoused in the legislative history, along with disastrous unintended consequences. For this standard of review to apply, however, there has to be evidence that the contesting Respondent is a member of a “Suspect Class” or “Quasi-Suspect Class”.
Craig v Boren (1976) U.S. Supreme Court
(SIFC commentary: if Respondents were to be treated as a quasi-suspect class, or if any of the above levels of review were applied, it would be difficult for the civil authority to obtain a finding that unilaterally-asserted and unsubstantiated “irreconcilable differences” grounds accusations constitutionally withstand 14th Amendment equal protection and substantive due process tests. However, all rulings to-date on constitutional challenges to divorce laws have applied “rational basis“ as the level of review, mostly due to insufficiently developed case law and unjust failure to recognize contesting Respondents as a “Quasi-Suspect Class” or as having protected fundamental rights, as individuals or as a class.)
Rational Basis – the level of review most beneficial to the civil authority seeking to defend a law and enforce it against an injured party who brings a constitutional challenge. To gain priority over a Respondent’s equal protection and due process rights, a civil authority must establish only that the law serves a “legitimate” purpose, and the means is reasonably / rationally connected with furthering that purpose. The burden in this situation is on the Respondent to prove otherwise. Unjustifiably, this has been the review standard applied at the state level to all past constitutional challenges of unilateral divorce laws, occasionally in 2-1 split appeals panel decisions concerning the level of scrutiny that should be applied.
United States v Carolene Products Company (1938) U.S. Supreme Ct
Legitimate Purpose – There have been a bevy of recent homosexual marriage redefinition cases that struck down voter-approved constitutional amendments defining marriage by finding that such laws had no rational relationship to meeting a legitimate state interest. Yet, according to legal scholars, Kathleen M. Sullivan and Gerald Gunther, under this standard of review, the “legitimate interest” does not have to be the government’s actual interest. Rather, if the court can merely hypothesize a “legitimate” interest served by the challenged action, it will withstand the rational basis review. These volatile extremes in potential judicial outcomes show that the concept of “legitimate purpose” appears to have degenerated from its original aim of protecting separation of powers, to an area ripe for judicial anarchy, as ideological politics increasingly infect the bench. However, it is clear from a preponderance of recent rulings that state legitimate purposes still cannot deprive a class of citizens of their fundamental rights. In other words, state legislatures can’t override fundamental rights, and they are not subject to the will of the majority without a compelling state interest at stake, provided the states’ high courts are doing their job without class bias .
Bostic v Schaefer, 4th U.S. Circuit (2014) Kitchen v Herbert, 10th U.S. Circuit (2014)
Important Purpose – this level of review requires that the law or policy being challenged furthers an important government interest in a way that is substantially related to that interest. As contrasted with “legitimate” purpose, the burden shifts to the state, and there must be shown a reasonable fit between the law and its objective. Presumably, this still cannot deprive a politically disfavored group of their fundamental rights. As contrasted with “compelling” interest, there’s no requirement for least restrictive means.
Compelling Interest – historically defined as something necessary or crucial, as opposed to something merely preferred by the prevailing state ideology. Examples include national security, preserving the lives of multiple individuals, and not violating explicit constitutional protections. However, the recent religious free exercise case, Korte v Sebelius (7th US Circuit) added a lot of flavor, which was fortunate because the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to go there in the companion case, Burwell v Hobby Lobby. According to Korte, the 7th Circuit stated, “the compelling interest test generally requires a high degree of necessity. The government must identify an actual problem in need of solving, and the curtailment [of the fundamental right] must be actually necessary to the solution. In the free exercise context, only those interests of the highest order and those not otherwise served can overbalance the legitimate claims to the free exercise of religion… some substantial threat to public safety, peace or order. Finally, a law connot be regarded as protecting an interest of the highest order when it leaves appreciable damage to that supposedly vital interest.”
Brown v Entertainment Merchants Assoc. (2011) U.S. Supreme Ct Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v City of Hialeah (1993) U.S. Supreme Ct
What has unilateral divorce done to the actual instances of perjury in family court? What have been the documented child welfare results? What impact has unilateral divorce had on the poverty rates in single parent households? What has it done to the demand for deviant forms of marriage requiring further redefinition? What has it done to the actual demand for heterosexual marriage? What has it actually done to all of those lofty elements in the preambles that incongruously “grace” most all state marriage destruction statutes (i.e. public health and morality, parental cooperation, etc.) ? Could a more powerful case be made after 45 years of documented experience that the compelling government interest actually lies in the opposite direction of unilateral divorce, and that stripping literally millions of citizens of their fundamental rights to carry out this failed social experiment was totally unwarranted?
Fundamental Rights – Those rights enumerated in the US Constitution are recognized as “fundamental” by the US Supreme Court. According to the Supreme Court, enumerated rights that are incorporated are so fundamental that any law restricting such a right must both serve a compelling state purpose and be narrowly-tailored to that compelling purpose. The test usually articulated for determining fundamentality under the Due Process Clause is that the putative right must be “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” or “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition”.
For Respondents opposed to unprovoked government intrusion into the sovereignty of their covenant marriage and family, including irreparable harm to subsequent generations, several fundamental rights are ignored by state law in order to guarantee the nonconsensual availability to the Petitioner of “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for unilateral marriage dissolution without economic consequence, and because of the statutory exclusion of marital fault in determining child welfare and property division, which include:
- The fundamental rights of liberty and freedom of association, of non-offending spouses with their children, as well as the right of association with beloved members of the extended marital family, often after decades of perfectly healthy marriage.
In some cases, restraining orders are obtained against non-offending Respondents where no warranting circumstances exist, for example.
(SIFC was slandered and accused in court by opposing counsel, then excoriated by the trial judge as a “stalker” for attending a post-petition family reunion with her husband’s permission and his accompaniment, as testified to by two other accompanying witnesses!)
- The fundamental right to freedom of religious expression and conscience in opposing the divorce action, in particular, declining on biblical authority to agree that a marriage joined by God is ever “irretrievably broken” since such an assertion is contrary to His Word, also in the right to make financial decisions in the face of a prodigal spouse’s misconduct based on a biblical model of family role accountability instead of one imposed by the courts as their case law prerequisite to preserving property rights. Finally, religious exercise in unilateral divorce is abridged in a Respondent parent’s right to make decisions about the direction of their children’s education and other best interests, as opposed to what the court deems so. Expressing biblical truth from the witness stand can result in personal credibility being slandered by the judge without any substantiation , for example, even when massive perjury has permeated the courtroom from the Petitioners side.
Burwell v Hobby Lobby (2014) the U.S. Supreme Court upheld religiously-motivated choices and behaviors, as well as declining to engage in certain behaviors, as constitutionally-protected religious expression and right of conscience under the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment .
- The fundamental right to bring an equal and effective defense against a civil charge – the statute of our state still pays a little bit of “lip service” to what four or five elements constitute a finding of “irreconcilable differences”. The statute implies that both parties have an equal right to bring evidence to support or refute those elements. SIFC’s Christian attorney made a valiant and compelling effort to do so, and at the same time appeared markedly reserved in seeking to do so. However, the judge has the sole latitude to determine who may be allowed to do so. Unfortunately, since allowing such evidence is deemed “prejudicial” to granting the divorce, Respondents are increasingly overruled in bringing such evidence, even denied the right to refute perjurous testimony by the Petitioner. A unilateral divorce petition is a lawsuit guaranteed in all 50 states to remove liberty, status, privacy, property and parental rights from the Respondent, with or without just cause. The statutory semantics of terming a civil charge as “grounds” instead of an “allegation” to curtail the right of defense, and denying a jury trial is unique to family court and affords Respondents fewer protections than any other type of criminal or civil defendant.
- The right to marriage (and by recent corollary, the right to remain civilly married after moving to another state) have consistently been ruled fundamental rights. Absent proof of serious harm done by the Respondent to the Petitioner or to the marriage, state government violates this fundamental right guaranteed to non-offending Respondents by the 14th Amendment when state courts allow Petitioners to unilaterally dissolve a marriage against the will and moral convictions of their non-offending spouse. Inasmuch as Jesus said, “he who divorces his wife forces her to commit adultery”…and “he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery”, many religious objectors who are stripped of their marital status for no cause by a court are effectively stripped of their fundamental right to remarry except to their covenant spouse.
Loving v Virginia (1967) U.S. Supreme Ct
Obergefell v Kasich (2014) US District Ct, Ohio
Barrier v Vasterling (2014) Jackson County Circuit Court, MO
- The fundamental right to marital privacy and protection from unwarranted intrusion by government into the home – state legislation of a generation ago impeding the distribution of contraceptives and information by parties outside the marriage was deemed an intrusion into marital privacy, yet state legislation forcing the unilateral on-demand breakup of the family for no spousal cause and with no economic consequences, beginning just 4 years later, somehow escaped the same scrutiny as reflected in this lofty and very true sentiment which was brushed aside by liberal state courts in the fostering of unilateral divorce, and apparently only got dusted off in 2003-2014 for the benefit of further redefining marriage into its current genderless form:
“We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights – older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is coming together for better or worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.”
Griswold v Connecticut (1965) U.S. Supreme Ct
Is it not true, that the nonconsensual / unilateral availability of “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for dissolving a civil marriage creates a violation of the marital privacy right of the non-offending, non-consenting spouse? Is it not true that it does so without a compelling state interest in a way that is not narrowly tailored? After all, neither the 14th nor the 9th Amendments grant fundamental rights to marriages, they grant them to individual citizens. Furthermore, access to unilateral divorce without mutual consent appears to undercut the fundamental right of one spouse to seek appropriate therapeutic care for the other spouse where severe emotional illness may actually be the root cause of the perceived “irreconcilable differences”. The U.S. 7th Circuit found in Drollinger v Milligan that the right to care for family members is also a fundamental right.
- The fundamental right of parental authority and determination of children’s education and welfare
Pierce v Society of Sisters (1925) U.S. Supreme Ct
“It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder….It is in recognition of this that these decisions have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.”
Reno v Flores (1993) U.S. Supreme Ct
“In a long line of cases, we have held that, in addition to the specific freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, the “liberty” specifically protected by the Due Process Clause includes the rights….to direct the education and upbringing of one’s children.”
Troxel v. Granville (2000) U.S. Supreme Ct
[Justice Thomas, concurring opinion;] “The opinions of the plurality, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Souter recognize such a fundamental parental right, but curiously none of them articulates the appropriate standard of review. I would apply strict scrutiny to the infringements of fundamental rights.”
Stanley v Illinois (1972) U.S. Supreme Ct
“The private interest here, that of a man in the children he has sired and raised, undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection. It is plain that the interest of a parent in the companionship, care, custody, and management of his or her children “come[s] to this Court with a momentum for respect lacking when appeal is made to liberties which derive merely from shifting economic arrangements.” Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77, 95 (1949) (Frankfurter, J., concurring).
The Court has frequently emphasized the importance of the family. The rights to conceive and to raise one’s children have been deemed “essential,” Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399 (1923), “basic civil rights of man,” Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942), and “[r]ights far more precious . . . than property rights,”
Drollinger v Milligan (1977) US 7th Circuit
“The interest in the custody and care of a child by his family which has been granted paramount importance within our constitutional framework, is rooted in the right of privacy and involves the freedom to make certain kinds of important decisions involving a broad range of marital, sexual and familial relationships.”
- The fundamental right to protection of property from government confiscation / redistribution without due compensation
W. Virginia State Board of Educ. v Barnette (1943) U.S. Supreme Ct
In the Supreme Court’s discussion of fundamental rights in Barnette, they state: ” The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be put to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
State divorce legislation that imposes divorce unilaterally at the request of an offending spouse, then excludes all consideration of marital fault in distributing property, violates the fundamental right to retain and defend one’s property, especially retirement assets of the non-offending spouse who is morally opposed to the divorce. Since several states still grant unilateral divorce without finding it necessary to exclude marital fault for this purpose, even the rational basis for doing so appears highly questionable.
Additionally, the practice creates a sharp contradiction in the law. The 1888 Supreme Court case, Maynard v Hill was a particularly bad decision that singled out the marriage contract as beyond the protections of Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution from ex post facto state legislative acts that would impair the contract. Then, some 80 years later, this heinous legislation took the conflicting position that marital fault should not be considered as a factor in dividing marital property because marriage was deemed to be “an economic partnership”. Partnerships are in fact economic contracts, that are normally subject to a host of protections from financial malfeasance if the partners are not spouses that the marriage contract does not enjoy.
RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) – a law sometimes passed in a state following the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision that restricted the application of the 1st Amendment Free Exercise clause on a individual’s rights if a law is one of “general application”. Language (and effectiveness) varies by state, but generally such laws require strict scrutiny once the Respondent has shown that their free exercise of religion has been burdened by application of the law to them, and it usually provides that this constitutional protection applies to laws of general application. There is also a Federal RFRA, but this cannot be applied to divorce cases where the state has not enacted a similar law. Many states have only recently enacted these laws after the original dozen or so states who did so in the 1990’s. Application of RFRA to a case provides only narrow relief that is limited to the specific individual seeking it, not any class.
SIFC commentary: RFRA’s can give important relief to Respondents who are religious objectors to divorce, especially where the trial court judgment was punitive and taken in reprisal for contesting the grounds or pressing a large (albeit lawful) dissipation claim that spans several years of concealed financial abuse, perhaps in pursuit of an affair. [Ideologically, allowing compensatory dissipation claims to be honored weakens the portion of the law that bars any consequences for marital misconduct]. It is not uncommon for some judges to make a political example of otherwise-innocent contesting Respondents through disallowance of or barring due process around dissipation claims. In SIFC’s case this was done by requiring her to agree with the court that the marriage was “irretrievably broken”, which was against her long held biblical convictions.
Animus – State laws which have been shown to target a disfavored class and deprive them of equal protection in order to give legal preference to an opposing class have been subjected to heightened scrutiny under the 14th Amendment. There is no question that unilateral divorce laws were enacted with the express intent of removing the protections historically afforded to defendants in divorce and downplaying both the role of willful acts against the marriage by the offending Petitioner, and the objective interests of their minor or emancipated children. Today, in courtrooms across the country, those who seek to preserve the integrity of their families are labeled “stalkers”, “religious fundamentalists”, “mal-adjusted” and worse! Recent legislative bills in Illinois seeking to remove even more protections from Respondents are replete with similarly-disparaging references for anyone who stands in moral opposition to unfettered sexual autonomy. This could be unrecognized “class legislation” similar to that repudiated by Justice Kennedy in Romer v Evans:
“A law declaring that in general it shall be more difficult for one group of citizens than for all others to seek aid from the government is itself a denial of equal protection of the laws in the most literal sense. “The guaranty of ‘equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the protection of equal laws.’
As stated in Bishop v Smith: evidence of animus requires “some structural aberration in the law at issue, like the imposition of wide-ranging and novel deprivations upon the disfavored group or deviation from the historical territory of the sovereign simply to eliminate privileges that the disfavored group might otherwise enjoy.”
Romer v Evans (1996) U.S. Supreme Ct
Bishop v Smith (2014) U.S. 10th Circuit
Procedural Due Process – constitutional principle related to the 14th Amendment that aims to protect individuals from the coercive power of government by ensuring that adjudication processes under valid laws are fair and impartial, that both parties are accorded the right to sufficient notice, an impartial arbiter, the right to give testimony and bring relevant evidence, enforcing equal compliance with discovery process, etc. Family law courts frequently violate procedural due process in a contested unilateral divorce case by giving permissive treatment in many of these areas to the Petitioner while holding the Respondent to an exacting standard.
Substantive Due Process – constitutional principle related to the 14th Amendment that aims to protect individuals against majoritarian policy enactments that exceed the limits of government authority by infringing on fundamental rights without a compelling state interest and narrow tailoring (close fit with state objective and least restrictive means) to achieve that interest. Invoking substantive due process is intended to prevent singling out a disfavored group and removing their rights to life, liberty, property, marriage, marital privacy, parental authority or religious expression in order to shift the power to an opposing group or its economic beneficiaries. In the case of unilateral divorce and family law courts, those economic beneficiaries also tend to be the very gatekeepers of justice in a severe conflict of interest!
It is vitally important to recognize that typical contested unilateral divorce proceedings will often violate both types of constitutionally-protected due process in the same case, but the tendency in the legal community is to focus on procedural due process and say the judge erred, rather than that his acts were intentional, pre-emptive or punitive.
Disparate impact – unintentional impact on a protected, disadvantaged group from enforcement of state laws. Studies available by 2010 of the economic impact of unilateral divorce on low-income minority families, especially those headed by single mothers, caused the New York State Chapter of the National Organization for Women to actively oppose enactment of that state’s unilateral divorce laws, though broadly supported by other feminist groups in the state. Additionally, inner city pastors are among the few clergy who will officially and publicly speak out against unilateral divorce for this same reason. Though not a protected class, the next group to be hit by disparate impact is Respondents over age 50 in “gray divorce”, nearing retirement after 30-40 years of marriage who are suddenly stripped of that retirement when the court awards QDRO’s diverting retirement assets to the offending spouse whose financial planning was not as responsible as their own, and whose offending spouses brought the unilateral petition. Some of these cases harbor untreated emotional illnesses which family courts will not give the responsible spouse any latitude to testify about or seek help for their beloved life partner in violation of the fundamental right recognized in previous high court cases to care for one’s family members. In cases of severe concealed financial abuse, no-fault confiscation of retirement assets can happen even when the income of the offending Petitioner far exceeds that the of the non-offending Respondent.
Despite the strong parallels between Respondents and recent high court precedents protecting other politically-disfavored classes in marriage rights, and despite the presumptive validity of the fundamental rights of individual Respondents, SIFC is struggling to convince her constitutional attorneys to pursue a serious and sufficiently-vigorous 14th Amendment challenge, while there is individual relief available to her under religious freedom protections. There could be fear that the state appeals courts will deem maintaining parity with other states’ unilateral divorce laws a important state interest, fearing that citizens may then be forced to defend actions undertaken by a malicious spouse in a more permissive state.
There could be fear of an unknown retroactive liability impact for the state if either nonconsensual “irreconcilable differences” as unilateral grounds for dissolution were ruled to be an equal protection violation, or if exclusion of marital fault in property and custody determination were ruled a substantive due process violation. Would tens of thousands of forcibly-divorced former Respondents who contested the state-imposed unilateral dissolution of their marriages and were badly treated by the courts then be able to sue the state for restoration of property and parental rights, plus damages?
Though such an outcome would balance and restore fundamental rights that failed to be protected for “Respondents” under Rational Basis Review a generation ago, which were wrongfully stripped away from a politically weak and disfavored class , there are some liberals and conservatives who politically would still see this outcome as “judicial activism”. However, this is quite different from the sort of judicial activism that creates new special rights for a politically powerful and well-funded minority group.
In SIFC’s estimation, two elements make unilateral divorce laws unconstitutional in all or most states:
(1) availability of “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for dissolution of marriage in contested cases
(2) the exclusion of marital fault as a factor in determining disputed property and child welfare matters
Standerinfamilycourt.com believes these laws give rise to the unconstitutional failure to balance between the fundamental rights of the Petitioner and the fundamental rights of the Respondent (along with the fundamental rights of other adversely-impacted family members). All state encroachment on the integrity and sovereignty of the family without a compelling state interest actually transfers societal control from private citizens and families to the government in an unwarranted way, even if it comes at the request of one of the spouses. Public interest groups devoted to constitutional protections and to the defense of the traditional family should begin taking this issue very seriously, even if belatedly and for the first time.
7 Times Around the Jericho Wall | Let’s Repeal No-Fault Divorce!