Divorce: Conclusion And Compromise


Divorce should be taken very seriously. A relaxed approach to divorce goes against our solution to the social problem that every society must solve. Jennifer Roback Morse describes growing up in the 1950’s when divorce rates were low:

Let me tell you a bit about growing up in the 1950s….I don’t know exactly what it was like to be an adult in those days, but I can tell you something about what it was like to be a child. 

Our mothers and fathers were there. Our fathers went to work every morning, came home every night, and were sober most of the time. Our mothers took care of us without hovering over us. We had safe neighborhoods in which to roam, unsupervised, most of the time. We slept in the same bed every night. We didn’t shuttle between two households. Everything we needed for our homework or school project was right there at our mom’s house, which was also our dad’s house, which was the only house we had. 

We didn’t have to worry about how to behave around our mothers’ boyfriends or our fathers’ girlfriends. Our mothers didn’t bring a parade of boyfriends through the house. Our fathers didn’t make fools of themselves, remarrying a string of women whom everyone else could see were gold-diggers. It was unthinkable that our parents would present us with new lovers to whom we would have responsibilities, with whom we would have relationships. We sometimes saw our parents quarrel. But we seldom wondered whether these quarrels would mean the end of their marriages and the end of our lives as we had known them. We had brothers and sisters. When our moms had a new baby, that brother or sister was not a symbol of our mom’s new relationship with a new husband, an unmistakable and final sign that our parents would never get back together. Sure, we sometimes felt neglected by our parents’ preoccupation with a new baby, but we didn’t have to deal with the feeling that many of today’s children must face: the feeling that the new baby completes and solidifies the new marriage and that we are unwelcome leftovers from an old relationship… Each new baby became a permanent part of our family. 

We didn’t worry about getting too attached to a new half-sibling or stepsibling who might disappear if an adult relationship broke up. We all grew up with the same set of brothers and sisters for our entire childhood. Our family photos included all our siblings. The photos on the wall included our relatives from both sides of our families. Excluding a child from a family photo because they were “somebody else’s child” would have been considered unconscionable. Most kids I grew up with never had judges deciding where they would go to school or church. We spent Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day with both parents. Our moms might say, “Don’t tell dad,” if she had spent too much money. But our moms never asked us to keep signs of wealth hidden from our dads when we went to visit him for fear this would upset their financial arrangements. We weren’t asked by one parent to perjure ourselves against the other. I don’t know anyone from my childhood who ever went to family court even once.

Jennifer Roback Morse, The Sexual State, Chapter 8

The conservative conclusion is that, except in rare cases, divorce should be strongly discouraged.


A compromise for public policy is to permit fault divorce (such as in the case of abuse, adultery or abandonment) and also permit no-fault divorce after a lengthy time of separation. This would ensure spouses have enough time to reconcile or demonstrate that the marriage truly has irretrievably broken down.