Skip to comments.Divorce, American style: What if one mate says no?
Posted on 03/19/2004 4:58:57 PM PST by CatherineSiena
In the year 860, a king named Lothair II sought a divorce from his wife, Theutberga. Her marital transgressions, according to the king, included incest and sorcery. Theutberga denied the charges and demanded a trial by ordeal. A stand-in jumped into a kettle of boiling water and emerged unscathed, proving Theutberga's innocence.
Nothing so dramatic awaits Marie Macfarlane, a 41-year-old mother of four from Westlake. But a trial is what she wants.
Her husband, William "Bud" Macfarlane, has filed for divorce, accusing his wife of "extreme cruelty" and "gross neglect of duty" - a brutal legalese that she says cannot describe her marriage. So Marie, a devout Catholic, is taking a stand not often seen today: She's fighting to stop the divorce altogether.
"I'm innocent. There's no way my husband is going to prove that," she said of the charges raised against her in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court. "From my perspective, I'm being punished and my children have been punished because my husband is having a lapse in character."
William Macfarlane and his lawyer, Thomas LaFond, would not comment for this story.
Avoiding an unwanted divorce is much harder than it was in Theutberga's day, when the pope would refuse one even for a king.
These days, divorce is commonplace, and of less moral stigma than it used to be.
Where once some states didn't even recognize it, today a Nevada boarding house known as the home of the "quickie" divorce is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Where once some states didn't even recognize divorce, today a Nevada boarding house known as the home of the "quickie" divorce is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Marie Macfarlane is among the growing number of people who don't think this is a healthy trend. Some researchers and sociologists, both conservative and liberal, have come to view marriage as an essential social institution, benefiting children in particular. With politicians, they've coalesced into a so-called "marriage movement" seeking to promote long-lasting marriages, and to employ the government to help.
Couples in Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana now can agree to "covenant marriages," contracts creating self-imposed obstacles to divorce stricter than those in existing law. Citing the high number of single parents and children in poverty, President Bush and Congress have encouraged marriage - and, by implication, discouraged divorce - in their welfare-reform agendas.
"There is a cultural war going on over values in this society," said Macfarlane's lawyer, Kevin Senich. "It's influencing the way some people are looking at divorce court and their rights."
Threads of those traditional attitudes can still be found in many state divorce laws, including Ohio's.
Divorce in Ohio is still viewed as a contest, with one spouse proving the guilt of the other to win a decree from a judge. But in response to the "no-fault" divorce reforms of the 1970s, lawmakers made it easier for couples to divorce if both spouses say they are incompatible, or if they have been separated for a year. (Couples also can receive a marriage dissolution if they come to court with a joint agreement in hand.)
Otherwise, a divorcing husband or wife must prove one of 11 grounds against his or her spouse, such as abandonment, adultery, bigamy, "habitual drunkenness" or fraud. The grounds most commonly invoked are the most subjective ones: extreme cruelty and gross neglect of duty.
While the law seems to juggle both traditional and liberal views of marriage and divorce, the courts seem to tilt to the latter, broadly defining what's cruel or neglectful to minimize litigation and avoid leaving people in unhappy marriages.
Trials in domestic court are uncommon, and they tend to be about child custody or property, not whether a divorce should be granted in the first place.
"If somebody wants a divorce, they usually get it," said Lorain County Domestic Relations Court Judge David Basinski, who has denied just four divorce petitions in 15 years.
Because the law presumes there are grounds for a divorce after a one-year separation, some judges see little reason to dismiss divorce cases only to see the couples come back after a year apart. Last year, more than 3,900 divorce petitions and 1,900 dissolution agreements were filed in Cuyahoga County.
"Even if we don't grant the divorce, we can't make people live together," said Timothy Flanagan, administrative judge for the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court.
So in those rare cases like Macfarlane's, where one spouse doesn't want a divorce, the trials can become somewhat farcical, as the lawyers massage one person's unhappiness to fit the law's definition of extreme cruelty or gross neglect. And judges are given great discretion to decide when that threshold is met.
Records of court cases from around the state show that the most everyday annoyances can add up to extreme cruelty. The husband who avoided housework and made noise while his wife studied? Extremely cruel.
The name-calling husband who wouldn't cough up the money to fix the house? Extremely cruel.
So was the obnoxious pot-smoker, the wife who refused to cook or clean, the guy who called his wife "squaw," and the woman who wanted to bury her husband next to her two ex-husbands.
"Courts have become very creative in finding fault," said Senich, who also is challenging the grounds of a divorce in appeals court. "It's eroded people's desire to stick through the bad patches in a marriage."
This doesn't sit well with Macfarlane, for whom divorce still carries a stigma. She says she wants to reconcile with her husband of 13 years, but fears the court procedures are aimed at splitting them up, rather than offering alternatives that could help her and her husband avoid it.
"I believe we do have the ability to be happily married," Macfarlane says. "Isn't it worth giving reconciliation a shot? Maybe not every marriage will get fixed, but some of them will."
Flanagan says the current law is better with the modern reforms. In the '60s and early '70s, when fault had to be shown in all divorces, a spouse could threaten to challenge the grounds as leverage for a more lucrative settlement of property or alimony.
"We were finding that grounds were being used as a bargaining tool and people had to buy their way into getting a divorce," Flanagan said. "It wasn't right."
But Flanagan doesn't believe Ohio should adopt a purely no-fault system, like California and 15 other states.
"To some people, the grounds are very important, and I think we should have that opportunity," he said.
Is it me, or is this just a tad bit illogical?
Ok nobody can tell me that he didn't show signs of being a major jerk before the marriage. These kind of things don't just suddenly pop out of nowhere.
So why on earth did she marry him in the first place?
Well no. But at the time trial by ordeal was weighed very very heavily in favor of the accused.
William Rufus of England once had fifty men brought before him accused of breaking the forest laws. They all demanded trial by ordeal and they all got off.
But what if he was good with the papoose?
On the other hand I would think if it was the "Bud" that nasty Cleveland paper would have mentioned his religion. I just don't know how to go any further myself.
Especially as it was only requested by the accused when they knew there was no other way out.
Of course you are correct about the danger of spreading rumors and scandal. But just to clarify a few points of fact while hopefully avoiding that danger, the "Bud" McFarlane who runs "Catholicity" and the "Mary Foundation" IS named William "Bud" McFarlane. Here is his own web page where he identifies himself that way:
And to clarify another point of fact, I do know that he was living in Westlake. It's true that Westlake and Fairview Park share a common border. And I remember reading on the dust jacket of one of his novels that he lived in Westlake. I think that the Fairview Park address is a more recent one that represents a newer office for the various Catholic projects, not a personal residence.
I don't know anything about his wife's name, which may indicate a discrepancy, and maybe there is another William "Bud" McFarlane who lives in Westlake, Ohio and is in his early forties and who has 4 children, which is what is specified in the divorce proceedings, and is what he list on his web page, and whose wife is such a conservative Catholic that she would start a 1-woman crusade against the divorce laws. It's not impossible that 2 men sharing so many characteristics could live in the same town.
I hate to play the rumor-monger. I've even avoided any scandal articles unless there was a theological point involved, but the article regarding the McFarlanes to which you linked in your post says that they were married in December 1990. This Plain Dealer article says they have been married 13 years. That is one more strange coincidence. I hope that it is explained as nothing more than that. But as someone else pointed out, Bud McFarlane of CatholiCity needs to send out one of his emails ASAP to warn people that he is not the Bud McFarlane in this story, if that is the case.
Far too many spouses are coerced to divorce
Thank you for the interesting story "Divorce, American style" (March 13). That same headline was used for a 1965 story that ran in New York's Town and Country magazine. The purpose then was to pitch the need for reforming divorce law. The result over the next 10 years was a silent revolution that swept through the country when lawmakers replaced our previous divorce system with today's "no-fault" system.
California was the first to wipe out the previous "grounds" for divorce and enact this new form of divorce on demand. But, apparently, Ohio didn't want to go quite as far as California. Ohio lawmakers added two new "no-fault" options to its old divorce laws - probably to placate conservatives. But some think that Ohio lawmakers botched the job.
The Plain Dealer's story was just one version of what happens to someone who tries to resist the inevitable, but the numbers of those resisting are far greater than reported. Research (see "Divided Families," by Andrew J. Cherlin and Frank F. Furstenberg) reveals that up to 80 percent of divorces are "forced" on one of the parties because of the divorce- on-demand nature of the law.
Most unfortunate spouses who get caught up in the system have lawyers who've already told them there's nothing they can do - "just cooperate or you'll make the judge mad" - so anecdotal evidence makes it appear that most are agreeing to their families' demise. But that's far from the truth.
From: Judy Parejko
The recent story "Divorce, American style" stated that the courts broadly define what's cruel or neglectful to minimize litigation and avoid leaving people in unhappy marriages. Courts could do the opposite and possibly avoid making abandoned spouses and children live in unhappy divorces. Ohio law allows courts to help troubled couples by sending them to experts who've had success showing unsatisfied spouses how to be happy again. If my husband were a drug addict, the court could order him to go to rehab; if he's an unhappy spouse, the court has the power to send us to relationship rehab, but judges overlook this law.
The law also requires a one-year separation before my husband's application for divorce satisfies Ohio's grounds for divorce. Though my husband hasn't met this requirement, and even if I'm innocent of the charges of extreme cruelty and gross neglect of duty, I'm told the court will order my four young sons to visit Daddy at the apartment he rented. What Ohio law gives the court the authority to do that? The court can't prove that my sons are better off spending time away from home visiting Dad than spending time with Dad at home. What was the intention of the legislature when it required a one-year separation period before application for divorce? If my husband separates from me and wants to create a child visitation schedule with the help of a pastor or relationship expert, that is our business. Until my husband has been gone for a year, where is the legal authority for the court to get involved if I prove I'm innocent of fault?
I invite readers to join me in asking Ohio legislators why they allow the courts to favor the whims of the abandoning spouse over the other spouse and the desires of the children who need an intact home. Visit www.marysadvocates.org.
An intact family is priceless. When I'm on my deathbed, I'm not going to smile about how much money I got from my divorce settlement; I'm going to ask myself if I tried to provide my sons with a healthy home where they'd learn by the example of their parents to love, even when it takes sacrifice, forgiveness and cooperation over the long haul, through good times and bad.
From: Marie Macfarlane
Perhaps he took it down after this thread was highlighted on the Seattle Catholic website today. But it's all academic now in any case. That link was providing a little bit of evidence that it was the same "Bud" MacFarlane, but now that we have access to the divorce case on-line, there is no longer any question or debate.
Or perhaps under attack by a demon? The influences can be subtle, especially in the beginning.
Translate please, lol! I'm just a baby traditionalist :-)