AUSTIN (KXAN) – A bill making divorce much more difficult is moving its way through the Texas Legislature. Ending what’s called ‘no fault’ divorce would force a spouse to be legally responsible for causing his or her marriage to split up. In 2015, the idea passed a panel of lawmakers as a first hurdle. This session, HB 65 had its first public hearing in the Texas House Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues – with still months to go in the session.
Kristi Davis drove 190 miles from Fort Worth to this hearing room. After 20 years of marriage, she’s going through a divorce.
“I can tell you, out of the six of us, five of us don’t want this. That includes all four of my children,” said Davis.
She came to tell lawmakers she wants to work it out with her husband but current law lets the family break apart upon his wish.
“I can’t say, at any point in time, I disagree with this and it [will] make any difference,” she said.
Those types of situations inspired Representative Matt Krause, R – Fort Worth, to target the most common path to divorce. He thinks current law doesn’t give the defendant due process of law and limiting ‘no fault’ divorce would give them a legal way to try to keep a marriage together. Attorneys who came to testify admitted the majority of the time in ‘no fault’ divorces, the person who moves for a divorce almost always gets what they want.
“We make it a lot harder to get into marriage than we do to get out of that. It almost seems like it should be the opposite,’ said Rep. Krause.
Charla Bradshaw from the Texas Family Law Foundation came to tell lawmakers this could lead to long, nasty, divorce trials that would bump up emotion and expense.
“Or someone who is in a very bad situation say family violence or something. If they can’t prove the fault, they’re going to have to stay married to that person,” said Bradshaw.
If this law passes; one spouse would have to prove in court the other committed adultery, cruelty, felony or abandonment. The other grounds include: confinement in a mental hospital or living apart for more than three years.
After KXAN first covered the ‘no fault’ divorce bill, Representative Krause tells us the feedback he’s received has led to three major changes in the legislation.
The updated version limits divorces to unilateral marriages, meaning fault must be proven only when both parties in the marriage don’t consent to the divorce. The new version also limits the bill to marriages with children. Under the new bill, court documents will be redacted, hopefully preventing anyone besides the participants from discovering who was at fault in the divorce.
The bill was left pending in committee. It is expected to eventually pass to the full House.