Doty’s divorce bill was needed

Published 8:11 pm Saturday, April 30, 2016

Should domestic violence be an additional ground for divorce? Most reasonable people would agree that it should be.

Victims of domestic violence are often trapped in marriages filled with fear and abuse, and they should be able to divorce in those circumstances.

While the state has provisions for “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment,” that can be difficult to prove unless the abuse is severe and ongoing.

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Sen. Sally Doty was a co-author of a bill that would have added the additional ground of domestic violence, but it died after another ground was added to the bill.

The additional ground of “separation for over two years” prompted concerns from some groups, including the American Family Association.

“We started getting emails from the American Family Association and a few other groups that were concerned about it,” Doty said. “My colleagues certainly understand the seriousness of domestic violence. It was an additional ground that was added by the House that killed that bill. I’m going to refile it next year and insist that nothing be added to it that might kill it next year.”

AFA called divorce on the ground of separation a “no-fault divorce … the dissolution of a marriage by not having to show any wrongdoing by either spouse. No-fault divorce sets aside any notion of obligation or duty toward children in the family.”

“No-fault divorce has potentially destructive implications for Mississippi families and society, and the state should be encouraging stable families but not making it easier for married spouses to terminate their vows or ‘contractual obligations’ for no reason or no fault at all,” the group said.

While the AFA is right to promote the preservation of family, it might be oversimplifying the issue.

“A lot of women contact me — and men as well — who cannot get out of a marriage even though they are no longer living as husband and wife,” Doty said. “My perspective is, if a couple has been living apart for two years, that is not a marriage regardless of who moved out. Oftentimes children are caught in the middle. It causes a very stressful situation for the whole family. I think our laws should recognize that sometimes, as unfortunate as it is, things just do not work out.”

Doty’s approach is logical.  I doubt stopping people who live separate lives from obtaining a divorce helps reunite the couple. It simply makes life more difficult for all who are involved.

Is it beneficial to keep a couple legally married while they live separate lives? Probably not. And children likely don’t benefit either.

While the state should promote the preservation of family, it shouldn’t do so to the detriment of individuals who are stuck in a relationship that’s obviously not healthy or functional. Doty’s bill — even with the additional ground – would have gone a long way toward ensuring that doesn’t happen.