Marriage and Divorce

A Connecticut court ruled that the state’s no-fault divorce law did not violate the First Amendment’s guaranty of religious freedom.

Church Law and Tax 2006-01-01

Marriage and divorce

Key point. State no-fault divorce laws do not violate the first amendment’s guaranty of religious freedom when applied to persons who are opposed to divorce on religious grounds.

* A Connecticut court ruled that the state’s no-fault divorce law did not violate the first amendment’s guaranty of religious freedom. A husband fought his wife’s protracted efforts to obtain a divorce, claiming that the state no-fault divorce law violated the first amendment’s “free exercise of religion clause” since he was opposed to divorce on religious grounds. The court rejected the husband’s argument, noting that the United States Supreme Court has “consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).” The state no-fault divorce law was a valid and neutral law of general applicability, and “did not in any manner infringe on the husband’s right to exercise his religious beliefs merely because it permitted his wife to obtain a divorce from him against his wishes.” The state legislature, in enacting the no-fault divorce law, “could rationally conclude that public policy requires an accommodation to the unfortunate reality that a marital relationship may terminate in fact without regard to the fault of either marital partner, and that such a relationship should therefore be dissoluble in law upon a judicial determination of irretrievable breakdown.” Grimm v. Grimm, 844 A.2d 855 (Conn. App. 2004).

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