Why No One Is Married
Ed Truncellito, J.D., September 2000
Marriage today is no more than "registered cohabitation" because no-fault divorce was misinterpreted as "no cause and no proof" divorce. If you can divorce without true cause--then you were not truly married in the first place. You were merely cohabiting, as in ages past, regardless what name it's called.
You could always walk away from a disagreeable cohabitation, but marriage was defined in its protection by law. You couldn't get out of a marriage just because you wanted out. You had to have true cause: abuse, adultery, abandonment, or the like. And not only cause, but genuine proof of it.
When the well-meaning no-faulters tried to take adversarialism out of the divorce process, to make it friendly, it failed. The door swung wide open to "no cause and no proof" divorce. Meanwhile, adversarialism went right back into the property and custody battles.
The old "fault" laws needed overhaul to bring spousal equality, and to make the system friendlier, but no-fault's "no cause and no proof" divorce, administered by warring lawyers, was the wrong implementation. The law should have required that spouses be taught how, and helped, to settle differences as co-equals, to deliberate justly and fairly, with self-control, while honoring their partner and the vows they made for a permanent union.
Beforehand, almost any man could rule his wife and settle disputes by physical force. But spousal equality demands at least a little education, a working knowledge of civilized diplomacy and reasoned compromise -- for both genders.
The no-fault laws did not train the partners to solve any problems. The laws simply -- and grievously -- empowered the courts to settle all their disputes for them, in one grand sweep, by divorce, no matter how whimsical or trivial the disagreement. No-fault did not elevate the status of wives as co-equal family managers. It lowered the status of both spouses, while it elevated the courts as the new, and not-so-charitable, family managers.
The no-fault divorce system, as implemented, funded divorce. It channeled money from troubled families to divorce lawyers, now at hourly rates in three digits, in exchange for dividing children and property. The court's officers were hired and paid to terminate marriages, not to save them.
The no-fault legal system, as envisioned, was to be a family hospital, to comfort the hurting spouses and bandage the wounded marriages. Instead, it became a family morgue. It promised to give relief from the former hostilities of the "fault" legal system, but it became more hostile than ever.
Reconciliation dollars, facilities, and assistance were promised, but they never materialized. A generation and a half later, we know that the experiment did not work as planned.
In truth, our no-fault laws, as implemented, abolished true marriage. After many years of no-fault, we no longer even respect the solemn covenants that partners make between themselves and God. Instead, we respect the solemn covenants that lawyers make between themselves and a judge.
Although cohabitation is handicapped in many ways, it unfortunately has one important advantage: ordinary cohabitation keeps government out of the home. In contrast, the registered cohabitation that we still call marriage invokes the jurisdiction of government officers. They receive authority to manage the lives of both spouses and their children with legal force.
No wonder people cohabit. No wonder we have so many broken homes. Partners can walk away from the slightest inconvenience, at any time, with court assistance. They don't ever have to conciliate, or swallow their pride and say they are sorry, or try to please anyone but themselves.
When divorce was made into a guaranteed certainty, it became an easy way out of hard times. Partners knew they would no longer be pressed by embarrassing questions about covenants and faithfulness, as they moved on to their next cohabitation. Nor could they be stopped.
The fundamental attribute, the unique defining characteristic, the earmark, that always distinguished true marriage from cohabitation, is legal security -- protection by law -- protection by divorce law.
Today, that protection is gone. Genuine proof of true cause was always required for divorce, and anything else -- but that -- should have changed in an overhaul of divorce law.
It is one thing to let spouses decide, without intrusion, for their own private reasons, whether to live together, or to live apart indefinitely. But it is another thing altogether, for government not to question the cause, when government has already intervened, when government is asked to destroy a marriage, totally and permanently.
The legal security of true marriage cannot be a chain. But neither can it be a thread. It must be a sturdy fabric, a flexible but tough canvas, to weather the gales of life.
That's why true marriage is so secure and stable for mates. When spouses cannot easily shake off their yoke, they soften it by mutual accommodation. In other words: spouses don't stay together because they get along; they get along because they stay together.
And that's why true marriage is so secure and stable for children. True marriage is underwritten by law. Children can rest assured that no passing storm will carry either of their parents away. They know that the whole force of government stands as a benevolent guard to protect their homes and both of their providers.
We are not in the midst of a divorce crisis. It is a marriage crisis.
No one is married, and no one can marry. The right to marry was taken away.
The happy voices of the bride and the bridegroom are gone from our land.
Attorney Ed Truncellito spent over 1,500 hours researching the legislation that created "no-fault" divorce in Texas in 1969. He found that the law was meant only to apply to uncontested divorces. He has filed suit against the State Bar of Texas, alleging that they, like the tobacco industry, covered up what they knew to be a destructive product, and that the State Bar knew all along that the no-fault law was being misapplied but covered it up for financial gain. See Mr. Truncellito's website at www.no-one-is-married.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org (use underscores).
Note- The website seems to be dead. See backups at http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.no-one-is-married.com