The push to reform divorce laws continues to grow at the state and national level as more people begin to realize doing so is a strong way to reduce the size and cost of government. Every year, it is estimated that family fragmentation costs the government (and taxpayers), conservatively, $112 billion in divorce and single-parent related social programs. That is over 1 trillion dollars every decade.
At the state level, family fragmentation is estimated to cost the State of Texas roughly $3 billion every year. Just in 2010 alone the number of divorces in Texas exceeded 82,000, impacting nearly 65,000 children under the age of 18. Given the fiscal situation of our nation and state, it is certainly time that this important issue receives strong attention.
But the cost is not just a financial one. Divorce can also have harsh effects on the children involved. A Washington Times piece points out some of the recent studies on the wide ranging impacts on children:
- Children of divorce have shorter life spans – by an average of five years – compared to children whose parents didn’t divorce, according to a new study by Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin.
- If the U.S. “enjoyed the same level of family stability today as it did in 1960,” there would be 750,000 fewer children repeating grades, 1.2 million fewer school suspensions, about 500,000 fewer acts of teenage delinquency, about 600,000 few children receiving therapy and 70,000 fewer suicides every year, writes W. Bradford Wilcox in a 2009 paper, referring to research by Pennsylvania State University professors Paul Amato and Alan Booth.
- Children of divorce are often stunted economically and can’t seem to work their way into higher-income levels, a 2010 study from Pew Charitable Trusts says.
Divorce has an enormous negative impact on children, but divorce also creates devastating emotional and financial problems for both husband and wife. Divorce has been described as similar to suffering a heart attack and can diminish a former spouse’s lifetime expected wealth by 73%, according to one study.
In Texas, our state laws allows one spouse to file for divorce on “no-fault” grounds and receive a divorce in just 60 days. Sadly, in the short time of just two months a family can be torn apart forever. Under Texas law, our no-fault divorce policy means that one spouse can force the other spouse to end the marriage. While it takes two people to agree on getting married (like every other contract in law), divorce is unique in that it only takes one person to end the marriage. Even if one spouse does not want to divorce, there is nothing he/she or the children can do to try to make things work and reconcile. It can all come to an end in a short 60 days.
From that moment forward the government is directly involved in the lives of your checkbook and your kids for the rest of their childhood lives as you must follow a court order of when you can see your kids, when you have to pay child support, when and if you are allowed to move, how long you can see your kids on their birthdays and holidays, and so on.
Divorce increases government intrusion into personal lives. Long story short, if you want to keep government out of your personal life, don’t get a divorce.
We have long worked on and supported policies that support marriage and the family at the state Capitol. We continue working with state lawmakers on this issue and support for common sense reforms to better protect children, families, and taxpayers continues to grow.
It is increasingly clear that there is an enormous economic and social benefit to supporting public policy that places a high value on marriage and family success. Policies that have a long term detrimental effect on children must be changed. During this legislative session, we will continue to look to divorce reform legislation as a key part of our legislative agenda.
(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)