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The Law of God

  • Marriage
    • One flesh- Gn. 2:24, I Co. 7:3,4
    • Joined by God- Mt. 19:6
      • Q: OT: polygamy, concubines- Abraham, David
      • NT: husband of one wife-
  • Divorce
    • Contrary to God’s will- Mal. 2:16, Mt. 5:31, 32; 19:9, Mk. 10:11,
      • Lu. 16:18, I Co. 7:11
    • O.T. Moses’ certificate (Dt. 24:1-4) not a command but a concession
      • (Mt. 19:8)
    • Grounds:
      • Adultery- breaks the marriage bond (one-flesh)
      • Desertion by unbelieving spouse (“Pauline privilege”)- 1 Co.7:15

The Law of Man

  • Introduction
  • NJ Divorce Act of 1794
    • Framework- secular, not canon law; courts of “chancery” or “equity”, not ecclesiastical
    • Grounds- adultery (per English canon) and desertion (new- 7 years)
    • Blackwell Act of 1924- added extreme cruelty (6 months)
  • Case Law Prior to No-Fault (1794-1971)
    • Desertion- “willful, continued and obstinate”, can be constructive
    • Defenses- recrimination (or “comparative rectitude”), unclean hands, condonation
  • NJ Divorce Reform Act of 1971
    • New ground (added to others)- No fault (18 month separation, no “reasonable prospect of a reconciliation”)
    • Desertion shortened from 2 years to 1 and cruelty from 6 months to 3
    • Fault defenses eliminated
    • Fault eliminated as a factor in equitable distribution
    • Fault eliminated from alimony determinations and custody awards (by court opinions)

Christian Responses

  • Combat secularization of divorce law?
    • Fault principles (i.e. biblical standards) were appropriate in 1794 because reflected cultural norms
    • Return to fault principles in 2005 may violate “establishment clause” of First Amendment
    • “Covenant Marriage” laws
  • Expand (or restore) the role of the church?
    • Counseling
    • Mediation
    • Discipline

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