Dear Committee members,

Them Before Us defends children’s rights in the family. We are writing in support of SB 1958 because of the significant and lasting harm that no-fault divorce inflicts on Oklahoma’s children.

“Divorce” is another term for the death of a family. With it often comes the death of a child’s feelings of safety and security; it’s the end of one home, of love shared by the two people the child loves most, and of time spent with both parents daily. Divorce is often the act of adults trading their own relationship troubles for their child’s long-term physical and emotional health. Divorce is categorized as an adverse childhood experience (ACE). ACE’s “are potentially traumatic events that can have negative lasting effects on health and well-being.” [1]

At-Fault Sometimes, No-Fault Never

Before no-fault divorce, at-fault divorce laws correctly penalized the spouse guilty of abuse, addiction, or abandonment. At fault divorce incentivized marriage-sustaining behavior and penalized the vow-breaking spouse socially and financially.

Today, a majority of divorces don’t stem from “fault” and only one third break up “high-conflict” marriages. [2] The children of the “low-conflict,” “no-fault” divorces suffer the most stress when the family dissolves. [3]


Instability is a feature of a child’s life post-divorce. According to Judith Wallerstein, “Divorce is deceptive. Legally is it a single event, but psychologically it is a chain- sometimes a never ending chain- of events, relocations, and radically shifting relationships strung through time, a process that forever changes the lives of the people.” [4]

Divorce is often the beginning of the end of a child’s relationship with their father, [5] followed by cohabiting partners, remarriage, more divorce, step-family, new baby half-siblings, or a preassembled set of new children. This instability not only harms childhood, but adulthood as well. Children of divorce become adults who are, “less well educated, have lower family incomes, marry earlier but separate more often, and have higher odds of adult suicide.” [6]

Diminished Mental and Emotional Health

In nearly 50% of cases, living in two homes means children develop two different personalities. [7] As stated by a child of divorce, “I lost myself in every effort to appease each side of my family. Shuffling alone between two separate lives meant that I was on the fringe of each family, never an insider. The people I loved most were never in the same room together, and many of them barely even knew each other existed.” [8]

One long-term study of adult children of divorce revealed diminished outcomes in all aspects of their personal and professional lives. [9] For kids struggling with baseline mental health issues, divorce poses an increased risk of recurrent adult depression and a higher likelihood of developing bipolar disorder. [10]

Diminished Physical Health

Parental divorce has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, [11] and asthma. [12] It’s been shown to double the likelihood kids will have trouble with their gut, skin, nervous system, genitals, and urinary organs. [13] Loss of one’s father, not unusual post-divorce, shortened a child’s telomeres- the endcaps of their chromosomes- impacting their health and lifespan. [14]

Diminished Relational Health

Children whose parents divorced but never remarried are 45% more likely to end their own marriages. That percentage doubles to 91% when their parents remarry. [15]

Mother’s love, father’s love, and stability are the three staples of a child’s social/emotional diet. In the best case scenario, divorce halves the first two, and obliterates the third. Abolishing no-fault divorce is a matter of justice for Oklahoma children, and Senate Bill 1958 deserves a fair hearing to protect the natural rights of children to their mothers and fathers.


  1. Bartlett, Jessica, D. and Vanessa Sacks. n.d. “Adverse Childhood Experiences Are Different Than Child Trauma, and It’s Critical to Understand Why – Child Trends.” ChildTrends.
  2. Paul Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval ( Harvard University Press, 1997), 220
  3. Alan Booth and Paul R. Amato, “Parental Predivorce Relations and Offspring Postdivorce Well-Being,” Journal of Marriage and Family, 63 (2001), 197-212
  4. Hughes, C. R., & Fredenburg, B. R. (n.d.). How can gray divorce affect middle-aged children?. Psychology Today.
  5. “Effects of Divorce on Family Relationships [Marripedia].”
  6. Gruber, Jonathan. “Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long‐Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce.” Journal of Labor Economics 22, no. 4 (2004): 799–833.
  7. Marquardt, Elizabeth. 2005. “Just Whom Is This Divorce ‘Good’ For?” Washington Post, November 6, 2005.
  8. The Globe and Mail. 2013. “After My Parents Divorced, My Childhood Was No Longer Mine. It Belonged to Them,” June 5, 2013.
  9. Ahrons, Constance R. 2007. “Family Ties after Divorce: Long-Term Implications for Children.” Family Process 46 (1): 53–65.
  10. Bohman, Hannes, Sara Brolin Låftman, Aivar Päären, and Ulf Jonsson. 2017. “Parental Separation in Childhood as a Risk Factor for Depression in Adulthood: A Community-Based Study of Adolescents Screened for Depression and Followed up after 15 Years.” BMC Psychiatry 17 (1).
  11. “Parental divorce in childhood is linked to raised inflammation in adulthood,” University College London, July 11, 2013.
  12. Robyn Wing, MD; Annie Gjelsvik, PhD; Mariann Nocera, MD; and Elizabeth L.McQuaid, PhD, “Association between adverse childhood experiences in the home and pediatric asthma,” Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 114 (2015).
  13. “Parents’ divorce increases risk of health disorders in children,” Public Release Spanish Foundation For Science And Technology, May 24, 2017.
  14. Colter Mitchell, Sara McLanahan, Lisa Schneper, Irv Garfinkel, Jeanne Brooks- Gunn, and Daniel Notterman, “Father Loss and Child Telomere Length,” Pediatrics, August 2017.
  15. Nicholas H. Wolfinger, Understanding the Divorce Cycle (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 87