Divorce has become so prevalent that we often forget how harmful it is to children.
Statistically, children with divorced parents suffer in all areas of life. They are more likely to develop behavioral problems, struggle academically, commit crime, live in poverty, abuse drugs and alcohol, experience illness, and suffer from psychological distress.
Demographic Research claims that divorce has an even greater impact on children than parental death when it comes to their education.
Unfortunately, state laws are not helping the millions of children who will suffer from broken families. With no-fault divorce laws, marriages are now easier to end than cell phone contracts, and they reflect the ever-growing belief that all that matters is what the adults want—what they “need” to be “happy”—regardless of what is best for the children.
Wisconsin in particular has the worst combination of divorce laws in the country. Since the early 80s, Wisconsin couples have been able to divorce without presenting allegations or evidence of fault.
Since the no-fault laws passed, no judge in Wisconsin has denied a divorce. Why? Because there is no legal way for a judge to deny a divorce under our current law.
Each year, thousands of minor children are directly impacted—as truly innocent victims—by divorce in the Badger State.
For the past three sessions, Republican legislators have introduced a bill we dubbed the “divorce-today-remarry-tomorrow” bill. This session, it was Assembly Bill 79. The proposal would have completely eliminated Wisconsin’s six-month waiting period after a divorce before a remarriage. Fortunately, for the third time, Wisconsin Family Action successfully killed this bill that would further erode the institution of marriage and would certainly hurt minor children.
In the last two sessions, we offered two ideas for amendments. The first proposal was to refrain from completely eliminating the waiting period and instead reduce it to three months (or some other reasonable amount of time). Our second offer was to keep a serious waiting period for couples with minor children—because it’s the children who are most traumatized by all that transpires in these tragic situations.
The Assembly rejected the ideas and passed the bill as originally proposed. In this current session, the bill died in the Senate, as it had in the previous session. Marriage counselors and therapists have repeatedly told us the waiting period after a divorce should be longer, not shorter, because of the stress that happens during a divorce proceeding. Changing this waiting period is all about adult desires trumping what is best for children.
On a practical level, we know that every divorce brings both a social and financial cost to the entire society.
Divorce undermines the sacred institution of marriage and weakens the family unit. A weak family unit results in a tumultuous society that rests on a crumbling foundation.
After a divorce, the custodial parent’s income decreases significantly. Families of divorce are nearly five times more likely to live in poverty than those with married parents.
Most notably, divorce causes children to suffer from emotional wounds that affect them for the rest of their lives. They are left with severe deficiencies as they lack a stable home environment while they are most vulnerable.
In order to protect children and honor the sacred institution of marriage, Wisconsin needs to reform its divorce laws in a way that will better protect children. If it means bringing fault back into the process, then we should strongly consider that abuse, abandonment, or adultery should be back on the table as faults. We certainly don’t need to eliminate completely the waiting period after a divorce before a remarriage—in particular for couples with minor children. That would just make matters worse.
When children are involved, adult desires must be secondary to what is truly in the best interest of the children. The bottom line is we need a return to the belief that marriage, as designed by God, is a lifelong, monogamous relationship between one man and one woman, generally not intended to be broken except by the death of one of the spouses.