Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Revoking Marriage Licenses

I found this Time magazine article to be hilarious!  It suggests (inspired by Larry King's anticipated 8th divorce) that some individuals should be disqualified from obtaining marriage licenses.

Barring a last-minute reconciliation, Larry King is about to get unhitched for the eighth time. This despite the fact that his wife, Shawn Southwick, is 26 years younger and about a foot taller than he is. In other words, a perfect match. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the ex — Mrs. King club will soon welcome its seventh member — only seven, because one of the Mrs. Kings served two tours. And Mr. King will be back in the dating pool.

Losing a life partner or two could happen to anyone, but going through seven requires some effort. The vast majority of Americans — about 97% — wimp out and do not wed more than three times. As an octospouse, the 76-year-old King is in rarefied company. Elizabeth Taylor has also hatched and dispatched eight unions. (Recent reports of a ninth have proved erroneous.) So has Mickey Rooney. Zsa Zsa Gabor has been married nine times. William Shatner has an impressive number of exes, as do Billy Bob Thornton and Joan Collins. Like news anchoring, the field of extreme spouse collecting is dominated by women who were once considered very good-looking and men who almost never were.

The official record holder until recently, it's gratifying to note, was not a celebrity. The late Linda Wolfe of Indiana had 23 ex-husbands, although she admitted she married the last one as a publicity stunt. The other 22 were thus completely, totally genuine and heartfelt, and when last contacted by the press, Wolfe said she wouldn't mind marrying again. She was hoping for a straight man; on the two occasions she married a gay guy, it didn't take.

All of which raises the question: How many marriages are too many? Statistics show that more second marriages break up than first ones and more third marriages — about 75% — break up than second ones. Given that trajectory, shouldn't a referee step in after the third or fourth and suspend play for the good of all?

In no other area of life can grown people flame out so often and so badly and still get official permission to go ahead and do the same thing again. If your driving is hazardous to those around you, your license is suspended. Fail too many courses at college, and you'll get kicked out. You can lose your medical or law license for a single infraction. Stock analyst Henry Blodgett was prohibited from trading securities forever for publicly saying things he knew weren't true. So why do people who are committed vows abusers keep getting handed marriage licenses at city hall? If batters and violent offenders get only three strikes, why should bad spouses get more?

Read more here.


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They actually used to do that in Georgia. I think it was called "imposing disabilities" and I think it could only be done to men. There was an article on it a few years ago in the Ga. bar's family law newsletter. Some men were very reluctant to be freed from those "disabilities."

Posted by: John Crouch | May 3, 2010 8:52:48 AM

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