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Texas seeks to get rid of “no fault” divorces

In most states, including Georgia, there are enumerated grounds for divorce which include several fault based grounds and a no-fault based ground. In Georgia, to get a “no-fault” divorce, one party must simply state that the marriage is irretrievably broken. O.C.G.A. § 19-5-3(13). This “no-fault” option allows a couple to dissolve their marriage without proving that one party is at fault for the divorce. This is the most common ground for divorce in Georgia, and often it allows the parties to resolve their issues more easily and amicably, without having to legally point the finger at each other just to get the divorce.

The state of Texas is seeking to make getting divorce harder by removing this “no-fault” option and forcing a spouse “to be legally responsible for causing his or her marriage to split up.” Texas bill making divorce harder gets early movement, by Phil Prazan, kxan.com, March 8, 2017. This bill, which is moving through the state legislature, has both supporters and critics. Supporters of the bill argue that a spouse who wants to work on their marriage rather than get a divorce doesn’t have a legal way to keep the marriage together. If one spouse wants a divorce, he/she will nearly always get it with the “no-fault” option in place, which doesn’t give due process to the other spouse. Critics of the bill, on the other hand, argue that taking away the “no-fault” option “could lead to long, nasty, divorce trials that would bump up emotion and expense.” These critics give the example that, if the “no-fault” option is eliminated, a person seeking to leave an abusive marriage would be forced to prove fault, or remain married to their abuser.

According to the article, this bill is expected to eventually pass and become a law in Texas. At that point, the only grounds for divorce in that state would be adultery, cruelty, commission of a felony, abandonment, confinement in a mental hospital or living apart for more than three years. While the last two would be fairly easy to prove, and are not likely to result in acrimonious divorce proceedings, the same cannot be said for the first four. Naturally, if a party is required to prove that their spouse committed adultery, cruelty or a felony, or abandoned them, the evidence presented will have to present that spouse in a bad light and will likely lead to them not being as agreeable to negotiating a settlement. Though the updated version of the bill would only require fault to be proven when both parties don’t consent to the divorce, anytime a person is required to prove that the opposing party did something wrong, while at the same time having to work out a divorce settlement and possibly co-parent their children, will pit the parties against each other and likely sour settlement discussions. 

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