“Collateral Damage” or “Targets of Opportunity”? Children of Divorce in the War of the Sexes

Prof. Andrew Fraser

No-fault divorce is a cultural artefact. In other words, this “progressive” reform of family law is a product of human artifice. Inevitably, any such cultural innovation will produce what economists soothingly describe as “negative externalities.” The most toxic by-product of divorce law reform has been the concomitant breakdown of families with children. This epidemic of dysfunctional families is not the unintended consequence of legal changes introduced for the best of reasons. Did not conservatives predict that no-fault divorce would undermine the foundations of family life? Did not churches remind secular reformers that the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

The fact is that some, perhaps all, of those who promoted the putative “democratization” of divorce intended to subvert the traditional institutions of marriage and family (particularly as practiced among white Anglo-Saxon Protestants). Reform was marketed as a compassionate response to the personal plight of people “trapped” in loveless marriages. Decades later, Andrew Root concedes that the ideal of love-based marriage did not create divorce, but insists that “it was the love-based union that democratized it.”[1] But is marriage really about “love” in any recognizably Christian sense when the law enables any married person to sacrifice on the secular altar of personal happiness the health of society, perhaps even the future of Anglo-European civilization? Neither legal prohibitions nor religious taboos, much less social shaming, constrain the selfishly unilateral repudiation of solemn matrimonial oaths. Not surprisingly, the end of matrimony as a binding, irreversible covenant between husband and wife inaugurated an age of cascading, ever-more socially corrosive cultural revolutions.