Tuesday, February 01, 2005

More states stir against ease of 'no fault' divorce

Excerpts below, full article at the Christian Science Monitor

More states stir against ease of 'no fault' divorce
By Brad Knickerbocker

Georgia and several other states consider whether to lengthen the waiting period before marriages can be legally ended. Elsewhere, a growing movement is under way to promote "collaborative divorce," in which couples agree to settle such issues as child custody and finances without going to court - taking some of the civil war, in theory, out of marital breakups.

In addition, there are a growing number of laws that aren't directly related to the availability of divorce but could affect the instances and impact of failed marriages. Some provide "marriage skills" education in public schools as a way of avoiding divorce; others mandate "custody counseling" for divorce cases involving children.

A bill being considered by the Georgia Legislature would extend the waiting period for divorce from 30 days to four months for couples without children and to six months for couples with children. The waiting period could be waived in cases involving spouse abuse, but parents would have to attend special classes on how divorce affects children.

While several states are moving in the same direction, similar bills have been considered and rejected in some states, including New Hampshire and Colorado. Lawmakers in New York - one of the last states which still do not grant no-fault divorces - are debating the need to make divorce easier. Last month, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed bills that would encourage premarital counseling for couples and require counseling for couples with children who seek divorce.

In less complicated cases, advocates say nonadversarial collaborative divorce reduces the emotional and financial cost of legal separation. This involves a team approach - including financial advisers and mental-health professionals as well as lawyers - seeking resolution without a court fight.

This may take a bit longer than a quick no-fault divorce. But it can end up costing much less than a contested divorce, advocates say, and it is especially beneficial for the children in such cases. Some studies indicate that couples who initiate collaborative divorce proceedings are more likely to stay together in the end than those who go to court - perhaps lowering the rate of divorce.

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