According to a New York Times article, the New York State legislature recently approved legislation that would allow No-Fault divorces in New York. The state of New York is the last state that still requires one spouse to have committed a wrong (or at least to take the blame) for the dissolution of a marriage.
Many, including the Roman Catholic Church, oppose the change because they believe it will raise the divorce rates in New York. Interestingly, the divorce rates in New York, though low compared to all 50 states (ranking 33rd), are still higher than a state like Massachusetts where No-Fault Divorce has been the law for more than thirty years (3.4 per 1000 people per year in New York vs. 2.5 per 1000 people per year in Massachusetts according to StateMaster.com).
If No-Fault divorce doesn't cause a rise in divorce rates, then what is the impact?
According to a New York Times op-ed column, there are potential advantages a. The advantages include an 8-16% reduction in wife's suicide rates and a 30% reduction in domestic violence (according to a University of Pennsylvania report by economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers). In addition, the ability of one participant to end the marriage can change the bargaining power in the relationship causing both partners to change how they view the marital relationship. This could cause either party to invest less in the marriage, or could cause both parties to be more attentive to unhappiness in the marriage.
A valuable impact of allowing no-fault divorce, though, can be the ability of more couples to use mediation. Because neither party needs to accept fault, they are more likely to try and work out their differences with a mediator than litigate their case. Increasing the number of mediations could be the single-most positive impact of no-fault divorce, because, as one study found, mediation increases the likelihood of settlement, improved co-parenting relationships between parents, and improved the relationship of non-custodial parents and their children.
Sounds like it's about time New York joined the other 49 states in offering a No-Fault option.