McManus is the sole sponsor of SB 1127 which would eliminate 'no fault divorce' for couples with children or where one member does not consent to the divorce.


Since 1972 Michigan's "no fault" divorce law has required only that one spouse say "there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved."

Under the McManus bill those seeking divorce would be required to allege specific problems such as adultery, physical abuse, imprisonment, physical incompetence at time of marriage, or that a spouse had sex with an animal or dead human body.

The person accused of wrongdoing in the marriage would then have a chance to agree to the charges or deny them and a court would make a determination as to their validity.

Veronica LaDuke, spokeswoman for McManus, said that the Senator decided to introduce the bill because she was asked to do so by Mike McManus (no relation), president of the DC-area based Christian ministry called group Marriage Savers.

In a telephone interview Mike McManus said that simple incompatibility is not a good enough reason for divorce, and that it's wrong for the state to grant divorce when no evidence of abuse has been presented. Making divorces more difficult will reduce the divorce rate, he said, and he emphasized that Michigan should see divorce as a key cause of the state's economic woes.

McManus said that he believes the legislation could cut the divorce rate in half, and that this would have wide ranging positive effects.

McManus is nationally prominent in the field of marriage promotion, and has stirred some controversy.

In 2005 Salon reported that McManus had promoted the Bush Administration's Healthy Marriage Initiative in his syndicated column Ethics & Religion without disclosing that he had been paid by the administration to advance the program.

There are benefits to requiring that a court establish fault in divorce proceedings, he said.

"Forty years ago when this was the law," McManus said, "a man who was having an affair with his secretary would have to ask himself, 'Am I going to pay her alimony or am I going to give up this bimbo?'"

"Now the law prompts people to be irresponsible."

Under the current system, he said, courts are too quick to remove fathers rights in cases where women claim they fear physical violence.

People took their marriage vows in front of God, he said, and the state should support them in keeping the vows.

This is important, he said, because children whose parents are divorced are more likely to be expelled from school, get pregnant, be poor or kill themselves.

Though most people blame the sad state of Michigan's economy on the decline of the auto industry, McManus claims that the prevalence of divorce in Michigan is a major factor.

"Only married people can create new businesses. It takes one couple living under one roof to generate enough income to set off in business on your own."

Plus, he said, because divorced women and their children are more likely to be poor, divorce results in increased need for Medicaid and housing subsidies.

Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan said that his group is strongly supportive of the type of legislation proposed by Sen. McManus.

Glenn also supported a recent proposal by Rep. Paul Scott (R-Blanc), another Republican candidate for Secretary of State, to prohibit transgendered people from changing their gender on their drivers licenses.

"If candidates for public are trying to prove that one is more pro-family than the other then that's good," Glenn said. "We certainly appreciate the actions of both Rep. Scott and Sen. McManus."

Family law experts, however, say the legislation will only make divorces harder on families and children because parents will be forced to invent allegations of abuse and mistreatment in order to justify the divorce.

Michael A. Robbins is current President of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Robbins said that Michigan repealed fault divorces in 1972 because the process created needless hostility, collusion and perjury — people would make up stories of abuse to get out of their marriages.

A return to the old system would result in separation or abandonment in cases where a judge did not find fault and did not grant a divorce, and this would make it much more difficult to divide property, establish child support or arrange for alimony.

"If they don't grant divorce people are just going to live apart while married," he said, "and they are going to have children with other people while they are living apart, and they are going to have new problems that the system is not going to be able to help them with."

Robbins also said that the reinstitution of ''fault'' divorces will not give any more bargaining power to the innocent spouse than they already have because under the current law the court can still consider ''fault'' when it comes to division of property, an award of alimony, and a determination of custody.

Robbins disagrees that divorce is a cause of the bad economy; he says it's the other way around, financial problems and unemployment are putting a strain on marriages.

The bottom line, he said, is that people who want to get a divorce are going to get a divorce.

"You cant legislate morality and you can't force people to stay together if they don't want to stay together."

Henry Gornbein, a family law attorney since 1968, and former chairperson of the Family Law Council of the State Bar of Michigan, agrees.

Gornbein says the McManus legislation "would be an unmitigated disaster."

"If one party wants out there is a breakdown," he said.

"My understanding of the legislation is that unless there is some egregious situation you can't get a divorce and if one person wants a divorce and the other does not there is no divorce," Gornbein said. "I guess the sponsors believe that that is going to slow down the divorce rate but I think that people are going to get divorced whether there is fault or no fault."

"I don't think it is going to accomplish anything and I don't think it is going to pass," he said. "Politicians are pandering during an election year."