Proving Fault Won't Make Divorce Easier
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico

Men and women involved in divorce lawsuits continue to pay lawyers thousands of dollars to try to prove that the break-up of the marriage is all the other spouse's fault.

Given that it costs so much to try to prove fault, and given that it is almost never all one spouse's fault, and given that neither spouse will gain any financial advantage from proving fault, it seems curious that the focus on fault remains so intense. Maybe one of the reasons for it is fantasy--wishful thinking.

One fantasy is: If I can prove it's all your fault, I am justified in saying that you alone made the mess we're in, and you alone are responsible to fix it. I needn't lift a finger.

Another fantasy is: If I can prove it's all your fault, I am justified in saying that because you alone made the mess we're in, you need to step aside and let me fix it. I'll have all the control, and you haven't any say.

Yet another fantasy is: If I can prove it's all your fault, I can rationalize believing that everything would be just fine if only you would change your ways. I, on the other hand, needn't change anything. I'm perfect.

The underlying myth is that there can be simple answers for complex problems. Unfortunately those simple answers don't exist. Life is just not that easy.

Family problems are the result of the way family members interact. Every member of the family contributes to the problem, and every member of the family needs to contribute to the solution if a solution is to be achieved.

If the problem is that a child is failing at school or misbehaving, both parents need to work together to change it. If a child needs counseling everyone needs to participate with and support the counselor or the therapy won't work. If the problem is there not being enough money, everyone needs to tighten their belts so new, realistic budgets can be established.

You'd think that since 59 years have passed since no-fault divorce was created, everyone would have got it by now, but fantasies have enormous staying power. We need to focus more on teaching people positive problem-solving skills so they'll be less inclined to engage in fault-finding, which everyone seems to know how to do instinctively. Civilized conflict resolution should be a required topic in every educational process, from kindergarten on, so people can begin to appreciate the complexity of the problems that face us and realize that cooperation and collaboration are necessary if difficult problems are to be solved. One thing is certain, worrying about whose fault it is will never solve the problem.



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