|Image courtesy of Michal Marcol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
In January 1996 my friend Pastor Ken Wood headed up the Oklahoma City office of the Christian Coalition. The "CC" was active in the political realm, distributing voter guides, promoting Christian values and fighting for Christian-Friendly legislation. Ken asked me to do some research on divorce for a bill before the Oklahoma State House.
I thought I would share this with you. What follows is the white paper I put together for Ken, who then distributed it to Representatives up at the State House.
You may be surprised who really makes our laws!
In Support of House Bill 2554
With the onset of "no-fault" divorce in the 1960s, our Nation embarked upon a trend toward quick and easy divorces; a trend that swept through Oklahoma in 1971. Although Oklahoma law does not have a statutory provision entitled "no-fault divorce", the concept is none the less being practiced on a daily basis by our state's courts, and under a statute that was originally intended to be applied quite differently.
That statute under which the no-fault concept of divorce is flourishing is Title 12, Section 1271 (now 43 O.S.); allowing Incompatibility as a valid ground for divorce. Following is a chronology, excerpted from West's Oklahoma Digest, of the inception, and subsequent liberalization of this law as well as statistical cites of relevance (Notes and italics added for emphasis):
1953 - Incompatibility is not a ground for divorce in Oklahoma (Vincent v. Vincent)
Note: This case involved adultery for which there was no evidence. Incompatibility was ruled not ground in and of itself.
1953 - The Oklahoma Legislature amended Title 12, Section 1271 to include Incompatibly as ground for divorce.
Note: Only New Mexico, Alaska and the Virgin Islands had statutory grounds of Incompatibility, although other jurisdictions recognized it without statutory provision.
1954 - The Oklahoma Law Review, Feb. 1954 offers the following commentary: "In adopting this ground for divorce we have taken a step forward in recognizing divorce as a sociological problem. However, as a matter of wise public policy, good public morals, and for the welfare of the parties concerned, it seems that the court should grant an absolute divorce upon the petition of either party, only when the court is convinced that the parties can no longer live together in peace and harmony after a bone fide effort to do so. Without this precaution, we could certainly be approaching the domain of 'trial marriage'."
1956-There must be some conduct creating incompatibility on part of the defendant to entitle plaintiff to divorce on such ground. (Chappell v. Chappell)
1961 -Statutory ground of incompatibility does not permit the court to dissolve a marriage merely because its termination is desired by one or both of the parties. (Hughes v. Hughes)
1961 - When incompatibility results from misconduct of the complaining spouse, the trial court has broad discretion in weighing the possibilities of reconciliation and in granting a divorce decree. (Wegner v. Wegner)
1969 - California becomes the first state to embrace "no-fault" divorce. This lit a wildfire of no-fault sympathy, so that currently every state offers no-fault divorce in some form.
1971 - "Actionable Incompatibility" is determined to exist when there is such conflict in personalities as to destroy the legitimate ends of matrimony and possibility of reconciliation. (Kirkland v. Kirkland)
Note: It is no longer necessary to show misconduct causing incompatibility. This ruling liberalized the definition of incompatibility to such extent that it effectively brought no-fault divorce to the State of Oklahoma.
1979 - Incompatibility as ground implies mutual, not unilateral fault. (Allen v. AIlen)
Note: Misconduct cannot be shown now, as the ground does not recognize unilateral fault. This is in direct contradiction to the 1956 ruling. Incompatibility by definition has now evolved into No-fault divorce.
1991 - Oklahoma Women's Law Manual cites incompatibility as the most common ground for divorce in Oklahoma.
1994 - State Rankings, 1994 - A Statistical View of the 50 United States cites U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistic which ranks Oklahoma as #2 in the United States in divorce, with 7.7 per 1000 population.
1995 - Kids Count Data Book 1995, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, cites the following statistics concerning the State of Oklahoma:
Percent of families headed by a single parent: 1985-20.4%
Percent of children living in poverty : 1985-18.8%
Juvenile (ages 1 0-17) Violent Crime Rate: 1985 -165 per 1 00,000 youth
1992 -339 per 1 00,000 youth
No-one is calling for the complete abolition of divorce, but rather a reform in the law so that this wholesale divorce factory in Oklahoma will be slowed and people will be called to responsibility again for their decisions and actions. The passage of House Bill 2554 will help turn the tide in the quest to abandon this ill-conceived concept of no-fault divorce, bringing the institution of marriage back to the place of honor that a fit society dictates.
April 23, 1996 - Follow Up
House Bill 2554, which was sponsored by Senator Howard Hendrick, R-Bethany, and Representative Ray Vaughn, R-Edmond, passed the House in March by a vote of 98-2, but was killed in the Senate Judiciary Committee by its Chairperson, Senator Bernice Shedrick, D-Stillwater, who refused to place the bill on the Judiciary Committee Agenda. See The Conservative Review April, 1996 -Page 6 column 4.
The structure of the Oklahoma Legislature is such that a Committee Chairperson sometimes has the power to kill a bill assigned to his/her committee for consideration, which power can be overridden only by the Speaker of the House or the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate.
Platform of the Republican Party of Oklahoma County, Feb. 24, 1996 Calls for the reform of Divorce laws in a way that will encourage maintaining family units. (See Section 4, Family and Individual Rights, Resolution 14, on page 7.
The 1996 Oklahoma Republican Party Platform (Adopted April 13, 1996) Calls for "Fault' based ground be reinstated in the divorce court. (See page 2 of the 1996 Oklahoma Republican State Convention, Section entitled Family and Individual Rights, sub-section entitled Family Autonomy, resolution 6.) Actions have been taken in the legislatures of several states on the issue of divorce reform, and Oklahoma may not be far behind. The conservative senators and representatives will continue to introduce bills into the liberal-controlled state legislature until even they will no longer be able to withstand the call for Oklahoma to return the values of our forefathers.
December 11, 2013 - Footnote:
- In 1999 Govenrnor Frank Keating created The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative to reduce the divorce rate by providing marriage education to couples.
- In a 12 year period over $70 million has been spent on the program.
- Over 350,000 people have taken marriage courses.
- In 2012 Oklahoma still reported the highest divorce rate in the Nation.