A Comparative Study of Divorce: Covenant Marriage-A Free Choice, or a More Restrictive Union
Coyle, Maureen F.
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Beginning with an historical overview of fault and no-fault divorce, this paper will discuss the sociological and political evolution of divorce. It will review the divorce statistics through the past century, and discuss what some claim to be the negative effects divorce has on families and society as a whole. This paper will examine the state of marriage today, while attempting to determine the underlying sources of the high rate of divorce-an evolving society, less stringent laws, or both. Following a discussion of the first covenant marriage legislation enacted in Louisiana in 1997 will be a separate case study of the divorce reform effort in Michigan. Especially significant to the Michigan divorce-reform debate is the Michigan Family Forum, a Christian Right group that exerts lobbying influence on the Michigan Legislature. The significance of this and other Christian Right groups will be examined, including the extent of their influence, and whether this form of legislation is an intrusion on the personal freedom of individuals. Further, this paper will attempt to determine whether covenant marriage legislation is too much of an entanglement between the church and the state. Some critics of the covenant marriage law not only oppose the creation of two separate classifications of marriage, but go further to argue that it is too "religious" in nature, that it amounts to state support of, if not outright establishment of, religion. Is this simply a vast Christian Right movement to insert Christian religious mores into today's secular society? Is divorce the tremendous problem that people seem to think? Moreover, can laws really do anything to change it? This paper argues that while it has become increasingly obvious that divorce is a problem plaguing our society, it may not be possible for our government to "cure the epidemic," simply by enacting a stricter code of law. Is such legislation really needed? Does this law intrude on personal freedom-forcing people to make a choice that is not really a choice? This paper argues that divorce is a societal problem, but can covenant marriage have an impact on this problem? The answer is no. While covenant marriage is a step in the right direction, it is not strong enough legislation to truly to change anything. The covenant marriage legislation is an admirable effort, but statistics introduced below prove that, thus far, given the choice, few people actually choose to enter into a covenant marriage. However, unless the whole of society changes its view on divorce, those few choosing to enter into a covenant may. be doing the right thing. Even if that translates into only five couples choosing to enter into a covenant marriage, the result could be a potential five fewer divorces, and maybe five or more children saved from a broken home.