A historical look-back that shamefully could make a woman disposable

As goes the effort at social commentary sired by Cahn/vanHeusen by way of Frank Sinatra,

Love and marriage, love and marriage

Goes together like a horse and carriage,

But sometimes people want to shoot the horse and burn the carriage, which is what was accomplished with a stroke of a governor's pen.

The no fault divorce bill easily passed both houses of what can charitably be described as our state legislature. It only waited the governor's signature. The law made it easier to get out of a marriage than out of a magazine subscription.

One spouse, usually the husband, has merely to sign an affidavit that his marriage has irretrievably broken down. Since it takes two to tango or at least to agree that it has not broken down, the couple are – give or take a few legal papers (for which, undoubtedly the lawyers will be generously paid) – divorced. In time, the law come to be called by some lawyers, "The Lawyer’s Relief Act Of 2010".

All the descriptions of the law made it sound good and modern. But was it really? It is a bit similar to a description given, in another context by John Randolph of Roanoke, [It is] like a rotten mackerel by moonlight, shined and stunk. The law, as hyped, glittered, glimmered and shimmered but when examined closely, was odiferous.

This law would permitted an older, long married and rich man to unceremoniously dump his wife. Sure, for being thrown under the bus, she will receive money, perhaps lots of money. But money is a peculiar commodity. The more you have of it, the cheaper it is to you. And with all the impedimenta of science, its practitioners have still not been able to effectuate the transmogrification of money into the lost years of a woman’s life.

At the other end of the socio-economic spectrum, women lost all power to obtain a better settlement from a husband who had a similar emotional attachment to his wife similar to that which he enjoys with an empty, crumpled package of cigarettes he tosses into a waste basket.

The law surely raised the divorce rate since the human condition is such that if you allow something to be done with less difficulty than previously, more people will do it. Result: more disposable women.

The proponents of the law pointed to the fact that New York was the only state to require grounds for divorce. There never was a worse reason for a new law than everybody else had one. This may be a reason to buy a new necktie, dress or Apple phone, but not for something that will affect the lives of, ultimately millions of people. Justice Holmes used the word “revolting” to describe this kind of decision-making.

What about the fact that after thirty years of taking a contrary position, the women’s bar associations then, like Paul on the road to Damascus who saw the light of the Lord, suddenly realized that the present law prevented suffering women from obtaining a divorce? Nonsense! There were and still are presently five “fault” grounds for divorce and additionally a “non-fault” ground.

There are, of course, “good” divorces, ones that should take place and that are appropriate on both a societal and personal basis. But divorce is not nor was meant to be a remedy for ennui, boredom or the desire to trade a spouse in for a newer model.

For the last two thousand years, marriage has been treated as a societal good and divorce a state of grace not to be desired. Jesus taught, “Let those who are for putting away their wives consider what would become of themselves, if God dealt with them in a like manner.” Still sounds like pretty good advice!

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