Reforming divorce: Changing laws to preserve families
States consider divorce reform in attempt to preserve families
For Jennifer Graham, the issue will never be fully resolved, as she's now a single mom with four kids trying to keep the bills paid while juggling new family dynamics she never wanted.
"There was a point he wanted to save the marriage, too," she says sadly. "It wasn't a thing where he said, 'Sorry, I've fallen in love with someone. I want a divorce.' We were fighting and we got tired of fighting and we quit too soon. I wish I'd hung on … and I know my kids sure do."
DIVORCE REFORM PROPOSALS
(developed by the Coalition for Divorce Reform)
BEFORE filing for divorce, parents of a minor child must:
complete a divorce education curriculum, followed by an eight-month reconciliation and reflection period, unless:
— there is domestic violence against the other spouse or children
— the spouse was convicted of a crime or sexual offense against the other spouse or child
— the spouse was sentenced to prison for more than 5 years
— the spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol and has refused to seek treatment
— the spouse has abandoned the other spouse 18 months prior to seeking the divorce
Divorce education must:
— be 4 - 8 hours in length
— be taught by a certified teacher
— include information about the effects of divorce on children and adults
— include information about the benefits of reconciliation
— include information about developing skills in communication, parenting, conflict resolution, money management and overcoming infidelity
(developed by Bill Doherty, University of Minnesota and Leah Ward Sears, former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court)
Extend the waiting period for divorce to at least one year
— offer a voluntary early notification letter spouses can use to let their spouses know their marriage is in trouble, without actually filing for divorce
— exceptions are made when one of the spouses has been convicted, during the marriage, of a violent or sexual felony against the other spouse or a minor child, or in cases of domestic violence where a civil protection order has been issued.
Provide high-quality education about the option of reconciliation
— require pre-filing education for parents of minor children about the effects of divorce on children
— include information about reconciliation research, the potential benefits of avoiding divorce, and resources to assist with reconciliation and information about when the risk of domestic violence should rule out the idea of reconciling at the current time
Create a center for developing the states capacity to prevent unnecessary divorces
— the Minnesota legislature established the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project in 2010 housed in the University, funded by a marriage license surcharge, which develops, evaluates and disseminates best practices for helping married couples at high risk for divorce who are interested in considering reconciliation. The Center works with lawyers, clergy and counseling professionals to best help individuals.
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