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Setting fault aside through divorce mediation

Representative Matt Krause of Fort Worth, Texas, wants to put the "fault" back in "no-fault" divorces.

The lawmaker believes that its time to eliminate no-fault laws. According to Krause, eliminating that option will help spouses to focus on restoring their relationships. Even those considering marriage may put more thought into tying that knot.

Krause's bill would require couples to live separately for three years prior to a divorce filing. The only exceptions are grounds of adultery, cruelty or abandonment, along with spouses convicted of a felony or confined to a mental institution.

Fifty years ago, no-fault divorce laws were born in California. Couples could divorce by mutual agreement. Blame or specific reasons other than irreconcilable differences or incompatibility were not issues. By 1980, forty-eight additional states signed on.

The remaining holdout was New York. State lawmakers sitting on the fence now had more than a decade of documented data to review. One of those studies came from the University of Pennsylvania that revealed that a no-fault option reduced domestic violence rates by 30 percent and suicide rates involving married women decreased by 16 percent.

In 2010, New York lawmakers made their own informed decision and joined the rest of the country by enacting "no-fault" divorce laws.

Seven years later, the Lone Star State is looking to start a new trend by taking a step back. It could also bring back a time when litigation was on the rise while divorce mediation numbers slipped.

Krause's promotion of the societal benefits of marriage aside, limiting divorce options or statutorily lengthening the process can do more harm than good. Instead of laws that serve as defacto lectures on the "do's" and "don'ts" of marital dissolutions, providing information on alternatives to litigation can help.

The benefits of divorce mediation are numerous, particularly when children are involved. An attorney-mediator can set aside "fault" and avoid pointing fingers of blame. The process can not only help end a growingly contentious relationship, but it can be the beginning of a more productive and cooperative, post-divorce life.

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