Texas lawmaker hopes to keep couples together, ending ‘no-fault’ divorces

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — The Center for Disease Control says three out of every seven marriages in Texas end in divorce. A Fort Worth representative says it’s too easy for people to get divorced and wants to change state law to make it harder.

Currently, fault-based divorces in Texas must fall into one of six categories: adultery, cruelty, abandonment and a felony conviction, living apart for at least three years or confinement to a mental hospital.

Family lawyer with the Zinda Law Group, Slav Talavara, says around 90 percent of his divorce cases use grounds of insupportability, what’s known as “no fault.” The couple admits things didn’t work out and split finances and property 50-50.

Getting rid of that option, ups the ante.

“When you tell two people, who are already going through a difficult process, that not only do you have to go through this difficult process but we have to blame someone for this divorce, it’s going to be a lot harder,’ said Talavera.

A one-page bill, filed by Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, will make it harder for couples to separate by ending insupportability.

“I think we’ve done a terrible job, sometimes in our own lives and own quarters, of making sure we do what we can to strengthen the family. I think this goes a long way in doing that,” said Rep. Krause, who is married.

It’s an idea long promoted by Christian conservative groups across the country who say the breakdown of the family causes undisputed harm. The Heritage Foundation quotes a University of Texas study finding a third of divorce spouses felt that they had not done enough to try to save their marriage. The study also determined children of divorce suffer from depression, compromised health, childhood sexual abuse, arrests and addiction.

“I think people have seen the negative effects of divorce and the breakdown of the family for a long time,” said Krause, “I think this could go some way in reversing that trend.”

Krause says ending no-fault divorces would keep the family together as well as add protection to the spouse who might not want to split up.

“There needs to be some type of due process. There needs to be some kind of mechanism to where that other spouse has a defense,” said Rep. Krause, who filed the same bill last session. He hopes lawmakers will pick up the issue earlier in the 2017 Legislative session.

He also filed a bill to extend the waiting period for a divorce from 60 days to 180 days. This bill would likely draw out the divorce process and make the battle over property, custody and finances tougher. Attorney fees would go up.

“It may lower the amount of people getting a divorce because I think they will learn to not be able to afford it,’ said Talavera.

Right now, all 50 states offer some type of no-fault divorce; but in 17 states and the District of Columbia, you can only file for divorce on no-fault grounds. These states don’t offer the option of letting people cast blame, even if adultery, abandonment or cruelty is involved.

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