Oklahoma state representative Arthur Hulbert (R) has introduced a bill that would lengthen the time that in-state couples hoping to file for divorce have to wait before they can move forward. Hulbert said he feels “we have a bill that will help strengthen families and give them time to rethink reconciliation.”
“I believe marriages have value, and I think society only benefits if we strengthen the family,” Hulbert added in comments first reported by the Associated Press.
Hulbert’s bill, in much of the country would have an uphill climb. Opponents point to statements like those of Stephanie Coontz, research and public education director for the Council on Contemporary Families, who said states that have eased divorce laws actually see a drop in domestic violence and suicide rates among wives.
“So, when you think about trying to reverse the ease of divorce, you may be incurring some real risks,” said Coontz, adding that these findings could be more true “in times of economic stress, which do tend to increase domestic violence.”
Hulbert believes his bill, which would add six months to the waiting period for couples looking to file divorce papers, will be more palatable to bipartisan support when the exceptions are considered.
The representative notes that his legislation would make exemptions to the waiting period whenever adultery and cases in which an individual is convicted of child abuse or domestic abuse are involved. It would also include abandonment, extreme cruelty, and habitual drunkenness, in the list.
While the exemptions look good on paper, many opponents also wonder about the burden of proof on such matters. Rather than making it easier for a wronged spouse to make a clean break, some say, the hardship of proving their case could take a bad situation and make it even worse.
Others criticize the role of the state in forcing couples to stay together, and will likely latch on to comments like that of Muskogee County District Judge Mike Norman, a bill supporter, who admits that he’s only had one case in which a couple reconciled before their divorce forms were final.
Still, Norman adds that he has “no problem” with the waiting period, even if it imposes economic hardship on the divorcing couple. “The worst part of my job is deciding the fate of minor children,” he explained.
How long do you think the proper waiting period for couples getting a divorce should be?