Stricter divorce laws not needed

Extending the waiting period for divorce from 90 days to a year won’t save marriages, just force bad marriages to last a little longer.

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Republicans often decry — and usually for good reason — how government has become too intrusive in our lives. Laws and policies have turned this country into a nanny state that’s overprotective or interfering when it comes to personal choices of its citizens.

Yet, it’s Republicans in Olympia who are leading the effort to use the government’s power in personal decisions.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, has sponsored legislation that would extend the waiting period to obtain a divorce from 90 days to one year. The proposal would also amend a court-issued handbook for divorcing couples to include the benefits of reconciliation and make it required reading for both parties.

Sponsors of the legislation, dubbed the Family Second Chance Act, argue the legislation will save taxpayers money. Divorce is correlated with higher rates of poverty and juvenile delinquency. They contend reducing the number of divorces will save the state money in social services.

While we would agree divorce should be discouraged, it’s not the government’s role to serve as a de facto marriage counselor. Family, friends, pastors and others should offer those seeking divorce — particularly if it is the result of a snap decision made in the heat of an emotional moment — advice and help in keeping their marriage together. If it is a healthy marriage, it is clearly better for children and society.

But not all marriages are healthy. Some people simply should not be married to each other. Some are in abusive relationships, — physical, mental or both. Some want different things out of their lives. Bad marriages can be far worse for children and society than divorce.

Proponents of this proposal have tried to address the concern about bad marriages by allowing quicker divorces in cases when one partner has been convicted of a violent or sexual felony against the other or against a child, as well as in cases in which a court has issued a final civil protection order against one of the parties stemming from threats of violence, according to The Associated Press.

Those exceptions only touch the surface of lousy marriages. Abuse happens in many ways that never make their way to a legal proceeding.

Increasing the waiting time won’t necessarily save a marriage that can’t be saved.

Twenty-eight states have no waiting periods, two have mandatory waits of one year and one state, Arkansas, has a waiting period of 18 months. The rest, like Washington, are somewhere in between.

Arkansas had the second-highest 2010 divorce rate in the nation, of 5.7 divorces per 1,000 people. Washington state’s 2010 divorce rate was 4.2 per 1,000 people.

Ultimately, the decision to divorce is a personal decision, usually a very difficult one. The current 90-day wait is sufficient.

Comments

prestonhall1 1 year, 5 months ago

If no children are involved, what right does the government have to tell two people they can't get away from one another. Now they not only hate one another, but their government too. Shame on you dictators.

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jennybuggs 1 year, 5 months ago

Hallelujah. The state I was raised in has a long waiting period, among other requirements, to obtain a divorce. Waiting periods are not a good idea - they just make people who should not be interacting have to draw out their relationship for an additional period of time usually to the detriment to everyone involved except the lawyers. And people compiling stats should also take a look at the fact that more marriages and divorces take place among lower income people. So is it divorce that makes you poor and your children delinquents or was the decked stacked against you before you married? If legislators are so distraught about the monetary strain that divorce puts of social services maybe they need to take look at issues upstream from the point of divorce and try to prevent things that break a marriage apart - like abuse and poverty - in the first place. A pound of prevention and all that...Or Republicans can just get really really picky about who they let have a marriage cert. in the first place - wouldn't that be super fun and indicative of government small enough to fit into your bedroom.

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namvet60 1 year, 5 months ago

These people lacking intelligence will create more court time and police enforcing the restraining orders that will be derived from this idiotic mindset.

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