The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Monday, April 15, 1996                 TAG: 9604120029
SECTION: FRONT                    PAGE: A6   EDITION: FINAL 
TYPE: Letter 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   57 lines


Columnist Marianne Means' contention (March 11) that the abolition of no-fault divorce is a backward step advanced by an obscurantic ``religious right'' is inaccurate. Elegant, scientific research by both Professor Lenore Weitzman of Stanford and Professor and Nobel Laureate Gary S. Becker of the University of Chicago reveals that no-fault divorce is not in society's interest. Becker calls a no-fault ``an experiment that has failed,'' while Weitzman sums up with the conclusion that no-fault divorce has been ``an economic disaster'' for wives and children.

Becker points out that under current law, a married woman with young children cannot stop her husband from divorcing her, no matter how much hardship she and her children would suffer.

Since child-support payments are often meager (even if she collects), she faces a bleak financial future where she must work long hours or go on welfare just to make ends meet.

Becker further says that the plight of those divorced women and their children - who now constitute almost 20 percent of all households - is among the most serious family problems in the United States, Britain, Canada and many other countries.

Professor Weitzman points out that divorced women and minor children living in their households experience a 73 percent drop in their standard of living in the first year of divorce. Means' solution to such a precipitous drop for women and children is better enforcement of alimony and child-support awards, a suggestion I equate with Marie Antoinette's famous (apocryphal) ``Let them eat cake'' when told that her peasant subjects had no bread and were starving. Does Means know that the median household income in the United States is $32,364, barely enough to support one family modestly, much less two.

Becker calls for doing away with no-fault divorce and replacing it, as many states are now considering, with divorce by mutual consent. This change would greatly improve the bargaining power of many married people, especially women, who are most hurt by no-fault.

As both Becker and Weitzman point out, no-fault-divorce laws discourage married women from leaving the work force for several years to care for their young children because they know they will need their jobs ``if their husbands ditch them.''

Neither Weitzman nor Becker claim to have all the answers for equity in divorce, but they have concluded that no-fault should go. As one savant noted, it is easier to break a marriage contract (divorce) in our society than it is to get out of a service contract with Sears.


Norfolk, March 15, 1996 MEMO: Editor's note: Ms. Mosley has been working since 1980 to make

divorcing fairer for women in general and military wives in particular.

by CNB