I’ve been through a divorce, and like anyone who’s been through a divorce, I can attest that it’s awful. When you’ve made a vow to partner with someone forever, ending that relationship is going to be difficult. It is impossible to take the process lightly, even if you live in a state with “no-fault” divorce, where neither party must prove the other a failure — where both parties can simply agree that for whatever reason, the marriage has failed.
I cannot imagine how much worse it would have been had my then-wife and I had to prove one or the other of us to be the guilty party in our marriage’s failure. It would not have changed the outcome — we still would have divorced — but the process of proving that would have inflicted still more pain, dragged out the process longer, and cost more money, as we hired attorneys to represent us in a case where both of us simply wanted to dissolve a mutual contract.
Iowa State Rep. Tedd Gassman, R-Scarville, thinks that divorcing couples should simply have to bear that pain. He has introduced legislation to repeal Iowa’s no-fault divorce statute, because he thinks that by making the process of divorce more bitter and painful, he will make it more likely that people stay together, despite not loving each other. And this will make girls less promiscuous. Or something.
According to Radio Iowa, Gassman says his bill, which would limit divorce to cases of adultery, felony, abuse or abandonment, would make families stronger.
“This basically is an attempt on my part to keep fathers in the home,” Gassman said at a subcommittee hearing. “I sincerely believe that the family is the foundation of this nation and this nation will go the direction of our families. If our families break up, so will this nation.”
That’s a lovely sentiment, and completely ridiculous. Quite simply, what of the couple that has fallen out of love? What of the couples who argue and bicker, who loathe each other, who both want out — but whose conduct has not risen to the level of abuse? Will one of the parties have to prove the other an abuser, simply to get free of a marriage neither wants to stay in?
And if those people end up staying together, how does this benefit anyone? How does forcing two people who do not want to be married to stay married benefit society?
According to Gassman, the answer is that by keeping fathers in the home, we’ll keep girls from being all slutty, which is far more important than said girls’ parents being happy. No, really — citing his daughter’s experience with divorce, Gassman said, “You know, in my opinion, it’s time to look out for the children, instead of constantly worrying about the adults. If my daughter and son-in-law would’ve had some time to work this out, we would have a much different situation today.”
Gassman continued, “And there’s a 16-year-old girl in this whole mix now — guess what? What are the possibilities of her being more promiscuous? What are the possibilities of all these other things surrounding her life that a 16-year-old girl with hormones raging can get herself into?”
Well, first off, I think said 16-year-old is going to have to deal with the fact that Rep. Grandpa just slut-shamed her in front of the entire state. Way to go, Grandpa Tedd!
Second, let’s think this through: let’s say Gassman’s daughter was forced to stay married to her husband, but Gassman’s granddaughter then ended up virginal until marriage because of it. Sure, Gassman’s daughter and son-in-law would be miserable, but their daughter wouldn’t be all slutty. She’d get married, like a good girl, before doing anything improper. Let’s just hope she doesn’t pick a jerk to marry, though, because there’s no way she’s getting divorced.
It’s a ludicrous plan, and one based on a simple lie: the idea that with her parents divorced, Gassman’s granddaughter now suddenly has no father.
I have a daughter. She’s 10 now, and far and away the most important person in my life. Since her mother and I divorced nine years ago, not a week has gone by when I haven’t seen her — indeed, I see her five or six days a week, have her overnight once or twice. I get her at night, work on homework with her, take her to drama classes and soccer practice. I am deeply involved in my daughter’s life because I am her father; divorcing her mother did not and cannot change that .
No-fault divorce, however, helped that process along. By allowing her parents to come to an amicable settlement, we were able to end our marriage without forcing one of us to prove the other guilty. That allowed us to make sure that whatever our feelings toward each other, we would both start our divorced lives as parents of our daughter.
Ending no-fault divorce won’t end divorce; it will just make it more painful, and make it more likely that in the end, any child’s non-custodial parent does indeed end up out of their lives. As for my daughter… I spent this afternoon picking up suspenders and snacks for a play she has this Saturday, and on Friday I will be attending a school carnival. I’m not sure this will keep her from being promiscuous down the line (and frankly, on the list of things I worry about for my daughter, that’s near the bottom), but I am absolutely certain that my daughter’s father is involved in her life at a deep and important level, and that she, my ex-wife, and I are all better for the divorce. Forcing more misery on us could not have made the situation better. It would only have made it worse. And that is what Gassman hopes to inflict on Iowa.