FFRF Action Fund is monitoring a troubling religious-right trend: opposition to no-fault divorce.
Brought to light most recently by the abhorrent video of right-wing provocateur Steven Crowder berating his eight-months-pregnant wife, and his subsequent grandstanding, a religious-right campaign against divorce is becoming a new way to control women.
No-fault divorce recognizes that individuals have the right to dissolve their marital union without having to assign blame or prove fault. This approach acknowledges the autonomy and personal agency of individuals in making decisions about their own lives and relationships. However, according to the Christian Institute, a religious advocacy group in the United Kingdom, no-fault divorces further tear at the fabric that holds together the family unit. This group makes the grossly misguided argument that no-fault divorce exacerbates the strain on spouses, children and society. A healthy divorce, in the right circumstances, can actually benefit a child’s mental well-being.
Make no mistake about it, at the heart of the issue lies an outright attack on women’s autonomy. No-fault divorce is often a way for a spouse to end an abusive marriage — physically, emotionally or otherwise — without needing to meet a certain arbitrary standard set by a court. Women have the right to define the terms and boundaries of their relationships, including the decision to end their marriage. No-fault divorce respects this fundamental right and offers a more equitable and compassionate approach to dissolving a marriage. However, to misogynists like Crowder and others, no-fault divorce leaves them without the control over their wives that they so deeply desire and feel entitled to.
Marriage is a civil institution that should not be subject to religious dogma. No-fault divorce aligns with the principles of secularism, equality and personal freedom, ensuring that all individuals have the right to dissolve their marriage if they so choose. The narrative pushed by the religious right that divorce is responsible for the decay of the family unit is wrong, and frankly dangerous. Forcing couples to stay in an incompatible, potentially violent relationship has the exact opposite effect of what opponents of no-fault divorces are seeking: Evidence indicates that being forced to stay in tumultuous relationships is harmful to children and can subject them to negative lasting effects. Through no-fault divorce, couples can part ways amicably, minimizing the negative impact on any children involved.
As of 2023, all 50 states allow divorce without requiring fault. As we continue to see the degradation of women’s rights, and the promotion of religion in government, the issue of no-fault divorce will be an interesting development to track on the legislative front. States to watch include Nebraska, Texas and Louisiana, all of which have addressed the issue in some capacity in recent years. It is worth noting — and it should come as no surprise — that the Texas bill was authored by Matt Krause, a former legislator and currently an attorney at the Christian nationalist First Liberty Institute.
FFRF Action Fund rejects the nonsensical claim that no-fault divorce should be banished because it will lead to frivolous divorces and, ultimately, the breakdown of the family unit. We will work to support the continued recognition of no-fault divorce as an essential aspect of personal freedom and equality.