Press "Enter" to skip to content

Randolph Helps Angry Dads by Trying to Strike Irreconcilable Differences from Divorce Statutes

In addition to promoting Breitbart bigotry and bad bill-writing, Representative Tony Randolph (R-35/Rapid City) is helping Tom Pischke’s Angry Dad caucus take away no-fault divorces.

House Bill 1158 would remove “irreconcilable differences” from South Dakota’s divorce statutes. Couples could no longer end their legal relationship by telling a judge that they’re just done. The court would have to see evidence of actual wrongdoing, in the form of the remaining legal reasons for divorce:

  • adultery,
  • extreme cruelty,
  • willful desertion,
  • willful neglect, or
  • habitual intemperance.

Current law includes felony conviction as grounds for divorce; HB 1158 changes that standard to “criminal conviction that resulted in incarceration.” Maybe that narrows the grounds for divorce—various felons get fines but no prison time—but maybe it expands the grounds—someone may commit a misdemeanor, not want to pay the fine, and thus spend a weekend in county jail. Legal eagles, can you clarify if time in the county jail for a misdemeanor counts as incarceration?

Striking irreconcilable differences from our divorce laws seems to give angry dads like Rep. Tom Pischke (R-25/Dell Rapids) who want to avoid paying child support (and, oh yes, Tom’s working on that this Session again) another way to keep women trapped in bad relationships and avoid living up to their obligations. Citing irreconcilable differences is a lot less wearing on couples and their children than forcing them into a court battle to prove who did what wrong to whom. Under HB 1158, a controlling jerk who doesn’t want to let his wife seek a better situation apart from him can say, “You think I’m not good enough to be your husband and raise our kids? Go to court and prove it.”

My neighbor and hapless legislator Rep. Kaleb Weis (R-2/Aberdeen) cloaks his co-sponsorship of HB 1158 in his feigned family-valuesism:

While no constituents asked about it, Weis said he was excited about House Bill 1158, which would remove irreconcilable differences as reason for divorce in South Dakota.

“Family without father is one of the reasons I believe the nation has the crime issues we have,” he said. “A lot of that stems from fatherless families” [Katharine Grandstrand, “Personal Story Gives Legislators More to Think About on Surrogacy Bill {paywall},” Aberdeen American News, 2020.02.03].

I agree that parenting is better when it’s done by a team. The more grown-ups kids can rely on, the better. But if two grown-ups can’t get along, if their marriage has turned unhealthy and they can’t or won’t cure what ails that relationship, ending that relationship is the best option for everyone involved. Removing irreconcilable differences from our divorce statutes gives a little too much power to one partner who may derive twisted satisfaction from refusing to reconcile differences and confining the other partner and their children in an unhealthy relationship.


  1. buckobear 2020-02-03 13:18

    Must have been a change somewhere. When I divorced in 1974, my wife and I had to use “mental cruelty” for grounds (even though our parting was amicable).
    When was (was it?) irreconcilable differences added to the statute ??

  2. Donald Pay 2020-02-03 14:51

    Irreconcilable differences was added to statutes in 1985. I recall that the change was fought by Eagle Forum, a conservative Christian women’s organization, who pride themselves for being under the thumb of the patriarchy. Several years after it passed, they were trying to repeal it. This is just a continuation of their hopeless effort, which is attempted sporadically down through the decades.

  3. o 2020-02-03 14:52

    Couples most often fight about finances; let’s have a companion amendment to require all married men to have well-paying jobs that can easily support any sized family they choose to have.

    Let’s also criminalize the reasons for divorce: the person at fault ought to also see jail time for undermining a marriage. Let’s start getting serious about this theocracy!

  4. Debbo 2020-02-03 23:00

    Apparently the SDGOP Patriarchal Caucus is alive and active. 🙄🙄🙄

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-04 05:25

    O is on the logically consistent track for Kaleb Weis and his fellow wishful thinkers. Let’s just have the state arrange marriages: We put the names of all 18-year-old males in one bingo barrel and the names of all 16-year-old females in another, spin, and draw one from each. Each lucky couple drawn is required to immediately begin cohabitating and copulating, without birth control. That guarantees we’ll have more big families with fathers.

  6. Laurisa 2020-02-04 06:10

    Careful, Cory, don’t be giving these useless idiots in Pierre any ideas! You know there are some who’d actually try to do that if they could. And they wonder why young people and professionals are fleeing the state!

  7. mike from iowa 2020-02-04 07:44

    Why not marry O’s ideas with Cory’s and arrange well paying jobs for all 18 year old males before they get hitched? Or maybe arrange lucrative state paid stud fees for the lads so instead of drudge work, they can stay at home and practice making babbies. And then have the state pay all expenses for childbirth and child rearing until the age of majority. This way the state will be fully invested in ruining people’s lives.

  8. Donald Pay 2020-02-04 08:48

    Cory’s take in the blog above is that repealing irreconcilable differences strengthens the hand of the man in divorce proceedings. At one point in the 1990s some feminists were opposing irreconcilable differences because they found it weakened the hand of the woman. In fact, they had data which proved that position. If you could pin some strong grounds on the man, you had a better outcome regarding child custody and financial support. If you look at it in that adversarial way, I suppose it makes sense. I’m not sure that would be true today, as a lot of these things have been worked out since then.

    At the heart of every marriage on the rocks are differences that can’t be reconciled. Those differences shouldn’t have to be rehashed in a courtroom. I think it is a perfect reason for a divorce.

  9. Jayne Reuer 2020-02-04 09:53

    I had a judge sentence a father to 7 months in prison for raping his child. When asked why wouldn’t the sentence be the same for him as someone who rapes another person and he said “Because he won’t be able to support his family when he’s in prison”. Inconceivable for me to think that I would ever want that father back in the home.

  10. Ryan 2020-02-04 11:45

    Donald touches on a question I had about this article. What says this change negatively impacts women more than men? I think people should be free to divorce if they want to, so I don’t support the suggested removal of irreconcilable differences, but wouldn’t it have equal impact on a person’s ability to call it quits regardless of gender? Or can someone correct me with the numbers? Are 90% of irreconcilable differences filings initiated by wives or something?

  11. Donald Pay 2020-02-04 12:52

    Arguing from evolutionary theory, females have much more at stake in the divorce question, as with the abortion question. So, yeah, it makes sense that females would make the decision most of the time. That decision does not mean it is divorce. It might be staying in a bad marriage. Most women think staying in a bad marriage harms them and their offspring emotionally, though it might provide a more secure financial footing. It depends on the values the woman feels most important, money versus emotional support. The tendency these days, especially with women working in a paid capacity, that emotional support for themselves and their children is more important.

  12. bearcreekbat 2020-02-04 13:37

    Isn’t the notion of wedding vows and marriage being forever simply a religious viewpoint? For example in a secular marriage service “vows” or “promises” of any kind are not even generally required.

    Marriage vows are promises each partner in a couple makes to the other during a wedding ceremony based upon Western Christian norms. They are not universal to marriage and not necessary in most legal jurisdictions. They are not even universal within Christian marriage, as Eastern Christians do not have marriage vows in their traditional wedding ceremonies.

    Secular law addresses a a parent’s obligation to his or her child whether a single parent, married or divorced. What secular interest does the state have in restricting divorce to proof of some “fault” by either party?

    Since no promises are required, all marital obligations to a spouse are statutory rather than contractual. Save for some very narrow exceptions, once an individual chooses to change his or her previous voluntary statutory classification, for virtually any reason, all future statutory obligations attached to such a prior voluntary classification normally terminate.

    If a religious institution wants to prohibit divorce, then no problem for their adherents and church members. Members must obey the church’s rules or face excommunication. Indeed, in the Catholic church divorce seems to be prohibited for any reason – the only loophole is an ecclesiastical annulment pursuant to church laws.

    Religous motivations for State-imposed limitations on an individual’s legal right to terminate an ongoing marriage, however, are prohibited by both clauses of the 1st Amendment that expressly restrict government power to adopt or enforce religious positions. A “fault only” rule certainly seems to fit in this category.

  13. Debbo 2020-02-04 14:06

    I know several couples who live together, raise a family and fulfill all the activities of a legally married couple without the contract. They do so, in general, because they don’t believe a legal contract with all the rules, regs and societal pressures is the best way to join and raise a family. They tell me their situation requires that they renew their commitment to one another, including the children, every day.

    This is purely anecdotal information based on about half a dozen families. 2 have gone through divorce with a spouse once, which significantly impacted their perception of legal marriage. In the others neither partner had a personal experience with divorce. They all felt that the idea of “marriage vows” had become so hypocritical as to be devoid of any real meaning.

    Personally, I wonder why there must be a cause for divorce. Why can’t a couple download the correct legal document from the county’s website for dissolving their contract of marriage, sign and date it before a notary, and be divorced. They could do the same with a document for dispersing joint assets.

    If only one person wants the divorce, they should be able to do the same, except they’d probably need lawyers to handle the asset dispersing. No reason should have to be given.

    One partner should never be able to force the other to maintain an unwanted marriage. That simply makes a farce of the legal institution of marriage. If the SDGOP wants to diminish marriage, forcing women or men to stay in an unwanted marriage is a very effective way to do so.

    If unpaid child support is a problem, and it is a HUGE problem, that needs to be dealt with separately and should be. However, if the SDGOP wants to diminish fatherhood, making it easy for fathers to ignore their children and dodge child support is a very effective way to do so.

    IOW, keep it up SDGOP. You’re making a huge mess and increasing the rate of SD’s deterioration.

  14. bearcreekbat 2020-02-04 14:19

    Forcing a woman to “maintain an unwanted marriage” is the tip of the MAGA iceberg. Some folks thought America was great prior to the 1970’s when:

    . . . the rape laws in every state in the union included an exception if the rapist and the victim were husband and wife.

    Indeed, it was not until 1993 that “all 50 states had finally eliminated the “marital rape exception.”

    Perhaps return to such “good old days” is the next step once no fault divorce law is repealed?

  15. Debbo 2020-02-04 14:32

    BCB, I was working in SD domestic violence shelters in the 80s-90s as we fought to get SD to recognize that rape is rape, regardless of relationship. It’s “technically” a crime, but look at the sentences handed down for spousal or date rape compared to stranger rape. 🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬

    In those years SD had a truly bipartisan lege and many Democratic women so it was possible to actually enact good legislation.

  16. mike from iowa 2020-02-04 14:33

    Marital rape? Wasn’t that the Rideout case from Oregon, if memory serves?

  17. Robin Friday 2020-02-04 15:37

    We’ve been through this before, the one man, one woman thing. We have no need in this state for a DOMINANT Christian Right making laws for everyone. People, including Christians and non-Christians, are free to believe and practice what they believe in as long as they’re not hurting anyone else. We need to remain free of the thumb of any kind of dominant religion on our backs and in our laws. Keep Christian dominance off our backs and OUT OF OUR LAWS‼️

  18. Robin Friday 2020-02-04 15:53

    Marital rape was one of the first bills my group and I testified in Pierre about in Pierre back in the ’70s. I believe the bill was opposed by the Catholic Right led by Joe Barnett at the time. We were successful at the time in proposing that marital rape is a real thing, and a woman is not the possession of her husband to do with as he wishes. Not a condemnation nof all husbands, or all men, just a condemnation of physical and sexual domestic abuse. Never go backwards. Never abolish decades of progress made just to satisfy one segment of the population at the expense of everyone’s civil rights.

  19. Eve Fisher 2020-02-04 16:15

    So are Randolph and Pischke best buds? Seems like they’re both on their way to making sure that women behave and that dads don’t have to pay.

  20. Robin Friday 2020-02-04 16:37

    I don’t know about Pischke and Randolph, but I think we’re seeing the reptilian head of the Christian Right peeking (or heaving) its head out from under its rock again in SD with the “modern” help of ALEC, CWA, RTL, Eagle Forum, ETC.

    Gawd, we’ve been through this. It’s the ’70s all over again. And back to the 1900s and before. We can’t let it happen!

  21. Porter Lansing 2020-02-04 17:36

    Actually it’s the Catholic Right, in SD. The only issue the born-agains tag along with the Bishop is abortion. The Christers get all the blame when it’s the Catholics that run Pierre and start these anti-LGBTQ hate bills.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-05 19:25

    Bear touches on a key point. Divorced or not, parents still have an obligation to support their children. In a divorce, the state steps in and requires verifiable payment. Pischke and Randolph want to keep the state out of that issue by making it harder to divorce and thus easier for deadbeat dads to avoid having to write a check to the women they want to control.

    HB 1158 is about men controlling women.

  23. Grndpa 2020-08-25 15:37

    Well Mr Pischke shouldn’t be worried about irreconcilable differences.
    His first marriage was on the grounds of adultery. (Public record) The Catholic church really frowns on such a thing and Mr Pischke claims to be Catholic….
    These “mad dads” just don’t want to own up to their responsibilities or their mistakes and pay for their child support, in my opinion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.