Frenchman Ordered to Pay Damages for Lack of Sex, or Why California No-Fault Divorce is a Fine Idea

The Telegraph reports that a Frenchman has been ordered to pay his ex-wife £8,500 (approximately $14,000) in damages for failing to have enough sex with her during their marriage.

The 47 year old wife in this case filed for divorce blaming the break-up on her husband’s lack of activity in the bedroom and sought 10,000 euros in compensation for her Husband’s lack of sex during their 21 year marriage. Despite the husband’s claim that tiredness and health problems prevented him from being more sexually active, the 51-year-old husband was fined under article 215 of France’s civil code, which states married couples must agree to a “shared communal life”.

A judge in southern France ruled that the Husband was solely responsible for the split and that article 215 implies that “sexual relations must form part of a marriage” and that “a sexual relationship between husband and wife is the expression of affection they have for each other, and in this case it was absent.” By getting married, couples agree to sharing their life and this clearly implies they will have sex with each other.” the judge ruled.

This is a fine example of why the no-fault divorce system as practiced in California and many other states is preferable to a fault based system.

“No-fault” divorce in the originated in the US in California in 1970. Until that time, a divorce could be obtained only through a showing of fault of one of the parties in a marriage. Unlike the case in France, this required more than not loving one’s spouse, rather it meant that one spouse claimed that the other had committed adultery, abandonment, felony, or some other culpable conduct. But then the other spouse could plead a litany of defenses.

The most common allegation for divorce was cruelty. In 1950, wives pleaded “cruelty” as the basis for 70 percent of San Francisco divorce cases, testifying that they were sworn at hit, and treated badly. This courtroom drama was described by California Supreme Court justice Stanley Mosk as follows:

“Every day, in every superior court in the state, the same melancholy charade was played: the “innocent” spouse, generally the wife, would take the stand and, to the accompanying cacophony of sobbing and nose-blowing, testify under the deft guidance of an attorney to the spousal conduct that she deemed “cruel.”

One of former California Governor Ronald Reagan’s better moments occurred when he signed into law the Family Law Act of 1969 on September 4, 1969 (effective January 1, 1970). The Act abolished California’s common law action for divorce and replaced it with the current process for dissolution of marriage on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. The grounds of irreconcilable differences are accepted as true, based on the assertions of one of the parties, thus eliminating the showing-of-fault requirements to obtain a divorce.

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