It has been an exciting spring legislative session in the southwest this year, as young lawmakers in Texas and Oklahoma have introduced common-sense bills curbing non-consenting unilateral divorce, and as both bills have recently made it out of their committees fairly intact. The liberal press has been shrieking and howling its disapproval, especially in Oklahoma, where the measure also ends the perverse economic incentives from unilateral divorce by restoring stiff marital fault penalties to property division.
As is so typical of liberal grandstanding and industry lobbying, we’re hearing not of the millions of fathers whose fundamental right to protect and raise their children is being severed though they’ve done nothing objectively wrong, nor of the adulterers sailing off with the unconscionable award of the innocent spouse’s retirement funds after a decades-long union which is suddenly deemed “irretrievable” by the court. Instead we are hearing about the classic “abused poor woman” who will now find it harder to get a divorce because she might now have to actually prove the abuse with (gasp) evidence thereof. As one of the expert witnesses giving testimony in Texas accurately pointed out to committee members on March 8, lawmakers cannot legislate to the extreme case (13:00), as the liberals would like, but must do what’s best for society as a whole.
Rep. Travis Dunlap is a young lawmaker from Bartlesville, OK who was elected to the state house from his trade as a piano tuner. Though he does not have the constitutional law background that his Texas counterpart has, he probably drafted the more effective of the two pieces of legislation in actually rolling back the abusive “no-fault” regime. According to media accounts, the original HB1277 drafted by Dunlap made it impossible for a court in Oklahoma to grant a divorce for “incompatibility” (the equivalent of “irreconcilable differences”) if the couple met one of three criteria:
– married for more than 10 years, or
– had a living child under age 18, or
– a partner involved objects to the divorce.
A committee modification allows petitioners who fall into one of those categories to have a divorce granted by the court for “incompatibility”, but they must first go through an educational program about the impact of divorce. Previously, petitioners only had to do that if they had a child under age 18, and the educational program was focused on the impact of divorce on children. While this does not seem a particularly helpful modification from the standpoint of constitutional protections, this bill has a very important strength that the Texas bill lacks: it restores marital fault to the property settlement that results, as follows,
Perverse and unjust economic incentives play such an enormous role in the abusiveness of existing family laws, and so drives the egregious behavior of the divorce industry “professionals” who have far more interest in shredding families than defending them, that no reform is likely to be sustainable without addressing this, as the Oklahoma bill has nicely done. As a direct consequence, Rep. Dunlap has predictably drawn the venom of the state Bar and the unrelenting scorn of Oklahoma’s leftists in the press. The committee vote was 7-5 on February 27, to refer the bill on for a floor vote which must occur by the May 26 end of the Oklahoma 56th legislative session. The Senate sponsor of the bill is Sen. Josh Brecheen of Coalgate, Oklahoma. Unlike Texas, Oklahoma does not have a strong family policy council any longer, and videos of the committee testimony do not seem to be available. One recent article says this, “Dunlap, who represents District 10, said he now does not expect the bill to see a vote in the House but is interested in continuing his efforts. ” We hope and pray that Rep. Dunlap does just that.
Rep. Matt Krause’s Texas bill was the subject of an earlier blog post. That bill, which simply eliminates no-fault grounds where there is not a mutual-consent petition has been favorably referred by a 4-3 committee vote on April 12, and must somehow achieve a floor vote by the May 29 end of the legislative session. This bill does not address several onerous provisions that would remain unchanged in the Texas Statute which could effectively still result in a contested dissolution being granted to an offending spouse over the moral objections of the non-offending spouse, including this provision:
Often, the innocent original spouse who does not believe in marriage dissolution because of scriptures such as Matthew 19:6 and 8, Romans 7:2-3 and 1 Cor. 7:10-11 and 39, has non-cohabitation forced on them by the offending spouse, and has little or no control over this circumstance, especially if the offending spouse is in an adulterous relationship or has a history of physical abuse of household members. This should therefore not be left under the sole control of the offending party if unilateral divorce is to be eradicated, and constitutional protections balanced. We should also note that the [unchanged] “cruelty” ground contains this phrase which still refers to “insupportability” but does not objectively or measurably define “cruel treatment” :
The court may grant a divorce in favor of one spouse if the other spouse is guilty of cruel treatment toward the complaining spouse of a nature that renders further living together insupportable
(Apparently, rogue attorneys and “abused poor women” can restore “insupportability” simply by alleging cruel treatment under sec. 6.005, which this bill still does not, for all purposes, make them actually prove under its ongoing vague definition — how novel!)
In the unlikely event that Texas HB93 achieves a floor vote by the end of the session, there’s no question that there will be some back doors left wide open to unilateral divorce, but the period of time required will be lengthened. If it dies in the 85th session without being voted on, we hope it will be re-introduced next session with some of these issues further addressed.
We covered a list of practical actions Texas and Oklahoma citizens can take to support these bills in the last blog on this topic, but let’s run through a few briefly again:
(1) Call the state capitol and ask for a floor vote:
Speaker of the House (Texas)
(512) 463-0675 Fax
Speaker of the House (Oklahoma)
(2) Engage your church and pastor – ask for a few minutes to talk to the congregation about the religious freedom and due process issues with the so-called “no-fault” system and how it has led to every other kind of immorality, from same-sex attraction to the high abortion and suicide rates. Explain that citizen engagement is needed at the grass roots to counter the overwhelming divorce industry lobby and liberal press. If they sent busloads of the faithful to the state capitol 2 or 3 years ago to combat gay “marriage”, challenge them on why this isn’t every bit as weighty a matter to the church’s families.
(3) Call Texas Values and ask what they are doing to support HB93. (Unfortunately, we’re not aware of a functioning family policy council in Oklahoma at this time).
(4) Sign a petition if you get a chance. The Ruth Institute has one for Texas that can be found here.
Divorce Reform, Repenting Prodigals and Covenant Marriage “Standers”
While there is broad agreement in the marriage permanence community that repealing unilateral divorce is best for the future of our nation, many of us have either already been unjustly divorced and seen our spouse remarry adulterously (by biblical standards, that is – since we, their true spouse in God’s eyes, are still alive), or others of us have come to biblical conviction that we had wrongfully “married” someone else’s divorced spouse, and needed to exit that union to be right with God. So, though meaningful reform of the unilateral family-shredding machine remains a long shot with plenty of deep-pocketed, well-connected opposition, we should look at where such reforms leave our wandering spouses who need to exit those immoral, civil-only unions and rebuild their covenant families. The subsequent divorce rate is significantly higher for legalized adultery resulting from the divorce culture, and it escalates with each round of serial polygamy under easy divorce laws. Just how hard will divorce reform make repentance from remarriage adultery under the two bills being considered ? Here’s an analysis for each:
Oklahoma, under HB1277: Mutual-consent petitions continue to permit no-fault grounds, but if the adulterous union produced a minor child or has lasted at least 10 years, an education class must be attended before dissolution can be granted. It is likely that a repenting prodigal exiting the adulterous remarriage will leave 75% of the marital assets with their ex-spouse unless that spouse has committed a serious, provable offense against the marriage. Assets can be replaced, but souls certainly cannot. Even so, assets brought in from the “dissolved” covenant marriage (very importantly including retirement accounts) are not considered part of the marital assets of the subsequent faux marriage and would not be forfeited by decree, however the repenting spouse would also likely have to absorb all the legal costs of getting free of their legalized adultery. Waiting period: 180 days.
Texas, under HB93: Mutual-consent petitions permit insupportability grounds but if the subsequent spouse does not consent and the repenting prodigal separates in order to end the practice of adultery (as he / she must do regardless), then after one year the now-abandoned spouse may file a fault-based petition which will be granted upon evidence, or they may agree to a mutual-consent petition sooner, and if HB65 also passes, the waiting period will be 180 days. Alternatively, the if the repenting spouse moves back in with their covenant spouse, grounds of adultery are then available to the now-abandoned subsequent spouse. If the non-covenant still declines to file a grounds-based petition, the repenting prodigal may file after 3 years of continuous separation on the basis of non-cohabitation. Assets would be divided on the same basis as current law but this would not include any assets brought from the prior covenant marriage.
“Standerinfamilycourt” always encourages mutual petitions rather than dragging anyone into a pagan court (1 Cor. 6:1-8) in the process of repenting of an adulterous remarriage, as a growing number are doing these days upon learning the biblical truth on the matter. If prayer doesn’t produce a consenting, mutual petition, repenting prodigals can always take comfort in the biblical fact that no state has dissolved the marriage of their youth in God’s eyes, nor was the subsequent “remarriage” ever considered valid in His courtroom. They are free to resume their union without the state’s blessing and are not actually in sin if they do so. The Lord will then sort out the legal matters in His own way.
‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate’….He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.“ Matt. 19:6, 8
And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matt. 12:17
(SIFC: Would like to give a shout-out and thanks to Bai MacFarlane of Mary’s Advocates, who has established contact with Rep. Krause’s office and has provided some of the not-yet-posted details needed to complete this post.)
7 Times Around the Jericho Wall | Let’s Repeal Unilateral Divorce!