You might have heard that political commentator and Texas resident Steven Crowder recently announced on his show that he and his wife have gotten divorced — over his objections. In the episode, Crowder says the divorce “was not my choice” and suggests that it’s unjust that a married person can get divorced without their spouse’s permission or proof that the spouse committed adultery or domestic violence.
This appears to be a reference to no-fault divorce, which has been the law in Texas and the rest of the U.S. since the 1970s. No-fault divorce gives married people the right to cite insupportability as grounds for divorce — essentially, that the relationship has broken down and cannot be saved.
Proving fault like a civil lawsuit
Before this, an unhappily married person in Plano would have to prove that one of a few allowed grounds for divorce existed, such as infidelity, abandonment and cruelty. Thus, divorce used to be much more similar to a lawsuit over a breach of contract or car accident injuries. This adversarial version of divorce is different than today, when most cases get negotiated and settled out of court.
Very hard to get divorced
Besides being more adversarial, getting divorced was much harder. For example, if the spouse countersued that the spouse seeking divorce was also at fault, the court would dismiss the original suit under the defense of recrimination. Evidence that the divorce seeker had forgiven their spouse for the reasons behind the divorce lawsuit was also grounds for dismissal. Even when both spouses wanted to end the marriage, evidence that they colluded to create evidence of fault would also cause the court to deny a divorce.
As a result, far fewer Texans got divorced in the 19th century and first part of the 20th. Still, the divorce rate did rise during that period, showing that not everyone was happily married. It just meant that more people were trapped in bad, often abusive marriages. Today, divorce is still a long and complicated process. But virtually nobody is forced to stay married against their will.
A return to the old ways?
A bill in the Texas Legislature would abolish no-fault divorce. While its chances of becoming law are uncertain, it might be something to watch closely.
Meanwhile, no-fault divorce is still the law in Texas. To obtain a divorce that respects your property and parental rights, consult a family law attorney.