- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On May 31, 2017
Upholding Marriage Against Unilateral No-Fault divorce
A divorce judge is scheduled on June 7, 2017, to hear a complaint from a wife’s attorney that her husband should be sanctioned, and pay a fine, for submitting his plea. Bringing in religious rationale based on the couple’s shared Catholic faith, the husband explained that the divorce should not be granted because grounds for divorce do not exist.
The Defendant husband asked to remain anonymous for the protection of his children and to keep open possibilities of reconciliation with his wife. We’ll call him “the Dad.” In a telephone interview with Mary’s Advocates, the Dad explained that both he and his wife consider themselves serious Catholics and they have several children who are under the age of fifteen. After marital tensions rose, he asked his wife to participate in marriage counseling with experts who shared their Catholic values and understanding of marriage. His wife, instead, filed for unilateral no-fault divorce.
In their state, a divorce judge can grant a divorce upon the finding that “the marriage is irretrievably broken.” Every defendant in no-fault divorce is warned by his divorce lawyer that there is nothing that can be done to stop a divorce. Consequently reliable, faithful spouses are coerced to agree to settlements in which their children are denied natural, everyday access to the Defendant who wants to keep the family together. The financial settlements hurt everyone because instead of having two parents cooperating to support one household, they support two households. And because Dad was the primary income earner, he is expected to pay his abandoning wife support.
The Dad reluctantly signed a parenting schedule and financial settlement, and thereafter his wife asked the judge for a final divorce decree, wherein she alleged that the “the marriage is irretrievably broken.” The husband intended to deny, on record, that their marriage was irretrievably broken. However, before he had a chance, the divorce judge issued the divorce decree.
So, the husband submitted his Motion for Reconsideration and Response in Opposition to Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (see HERE with identifying information removed)
With no-fault divorce, no distinction is made between a Dad who is upholding his marriage promises and a wife who is reneging on the promises. Lawyers and judges do not care that Dad did nothing terrible that would justify separation of spouses.
For Catholics, a wife is only supposed to separate from her husband if he does something grave, such as he commits adultery, is gravely dangerous, or is exceedingly cruel and harsh. For a Catholic wife, even if her husband was dangerous or exceedingly cruel, she has no basis for permanent separation, only temporary separation or separation for an indeterminate time as decided by the bishop or tribunal judge in an ecclesiastical decree of separation of spouses.
Those who understand the injustice of no-fault divorce ask why the Catholic leadership does not speak up against unilateral no-fault divorce as they speak up against other injustices. For example, in April, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development issued a “Statement on the Planned Executions in Arkansas.” In the statement, the chairman said, “serious criminal activity must be met with appropriate punishment” [ … and] “[p]ublic authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime.” In no-fault divorce, the Defendant committed no crime and no grave offenses justifying separation of spouses, but he and his children are punished by being forcibly separated from each other much or most of the time.
The Dad’s hearing on June 7 is significant for a couple reasons:
He is challenging the assumption that all no-fault divorce judges make when they find that “a marriage is irretrievably broken.” This is a subjective determination based on the allegation of the party who is reneging on the marriage promises. He could argue that the wording of the statutes themselves would not stand up to a constitutional challenge, because his right to due process is violated when he’s faced with an accusation to which there is zero chance of defending himself against the accusation and winning. The judge could decide to sanction him for making this challenge.
If on June 7, 2017 the judge sides with the wife and sanctions the Dad, he can argue that he is being punished for his religious beliefs, and this is a violation of both the right to practice one’s religion, and the right to free speech. Much of the Dad’s basis for arguing that his marriage is reconcilable is based on his religious convictions and the graces he believes are available for those with Catholic marriage.
The Dad says he is disappointed that the Church has no pastoral practice set up in his diocese wherein they automatically intervene in cases of separation.
Excerpts from his Affidavit attached to his Motion for Reconsideration are shown below and tens of thousands of Catholic divorce defendants could make similar statements in court.
Excerpts from his Affidavit
“Because I understood that marriage is a lifelong commitment, I wanted to make sure that l was not lightly entering into the covenant of marriage. To that end, when I married NAME OMITTED, I did so with the understanding that I was entering into a union that would be permanent, faithful, mutually self-giving, and open to new life.
“Thus, when NAME OMITTED and I exchanged our wedding vows, I understood very clearly that I was making a vow before God.
“The Church of which we are both members has implicitly recognized the sacramentality of our marriage, and it is my understanding that my marriage to NAME OMITTED is a sacrament within the teachings of the Catholic Church.
In his affidavit, he described how once it became clear to him that is marriage was in crisis, he believed they “needed the assistance of a professional marriage counselor (and ideally one who shared our values and understanding of marriage).”
“I have reviewed NAME OMITTED’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and I do not believe that our marriage is ‘irretrievably broken’ or that there is ‘no hope of reconciliation.’ To the contrary. I believe that our marriage can be healed with the assistance of a qualified professional who is committed to the institution of marriage.
“I believe that our marriage can be healed in part because, as a couple, we have not attempted serious marriage counseling. In my view, a single session with a marriage counselor. is not even a remotely reasonable basis for concluding that our marriage is ‘irretrievably broken.’ [(Mary’s Advocate’s Note: The counselor did not share their Catholic values and understanding of marriage.]
“As such, as a matter of conscience, I cannot consent to any statement that our marriage is “irretrievably broken” because, if (as I believe) our marriage is a sacrament, such a statement is tantamount in my mind to saying that the sacraments are ineffective. I cannot in good conscience agree to any such statement because it contradicts my deep-seated religious convictions.
“Finally, I do not believe that our marriage is ‘irretrievably broken’ because I love NAME OMITTED and I love our children, and I believe that our common love for our children is a solid foundation on which to repair our marriage. Despite everything that has transpired that has tested our marriage, I still love NAME OMITTED more today than I loved her on the day of our wedding. On that day more than NUMBER OMITTED years ago, I promised to love NAME OMITTED in good times and in bad. I meant what I vowed NUMBER OMITTED years ago, and I intend to keep that promise.
“For all the reasons noted above, I oppose the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and respectfully ask the Court to consider the evidence submitted in this Declaration.”