Divorce is typically a legally complex and emotionally difficult process for any couple, and the decision to get one is not one that is usually made lightly. Some legislators in North Carolina think the laws are still too lax, though, making divorce the “easy” solution to marital problems.
A bill was submitted to the North Carolina senate in April 2013 which proposed that easy access to divorce was to blame for the high divorce rate in the country. While the divorce rate in North Carolina (3.8 per 1000 in 2009) is actually below the national average, it recognizes no-fault divorces with a current stipulation of a one-year waiting period in which time the couple must have lived apart. The new bill, dubbed the “Healthy Marriage Act,” would extend the waiting period to two years during which time the troubled couple must live together.
The bill further requires that the couple attend marriage counseling that aim to improve methods of communication and conflict resolution. Those with issue will be required additional four-hour training on the effects of divorce on children. The bill was proposed by state Senator Austin Allran with the collaboration of Warren Daniel and Norman Sanderson. The bill is currently pending in the 2013-2014 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Proponents of the bill believe that the extended waiting period will give spouses a chance to deal with their issues and to judiciously weigh the impact on offspring (if any) before taking that final step. Critics, on the other hand, contend that it is gross interference in the personal life of state residents, something that would not stand up on appeal. Any Raleigh divorce lawyer would be interestedly watching for developments as this would have a considerable impact on future mediation and divorce proceedings.
All in all, the object behind the bill is laudable, but its stipulations may not be acceptable to many North Carolinians, or most Americans for that matter. Only time will reveal which will prevail: the preservation of marriage, or the exercise of freedom of choice.