Charlotte, NC- With almost half of all marriages ending in divorce, policymakers in many states are beginning to craft laws that will slow down the rate of divorce. Lawmakers in North Carolina are no exception and have recently introduced a law that would extend the period of time an estranged couple would have to wait before they can get divorced.
“The Healthy Marriage Act” introduced by Republican Senators Walter Austin Allran and Warren Daniel would extend the state’s current one year waiting period to two years along with other requirements. To these two lawmakers and some advocacy groups making divorce harder is not only a family issue but also an economic one.
“”North Carolina has a very high divorce rate — one of the worst — and it’s probably because we’ve been lax in our divorce laws. Made it too easy,” Allran told WRAL.
And Bill Brooks, who was instrumental in writing the new legislation, and executive director of the North Carolina Family Policy Council agrees with Allran noting that divorce rates are lower in states like Pennsylvania and Illinois that longer waiting periods, the Charlotte Observer reported.
During that two year waiting people, the couple would be allowed to live together and participate in counseling courses that work their “communication” and “conflict resolution” skills. If they have children parents would also be required to participate in a course that discusses the effects divorce have on children.
Brooks and the two Senators believe that this required waiting period will help keep more families together. Helping families stay together, Brooks told the Charlotte Observer that divorce comes at an economic cost to the government and the community in general.
“More poverty, lower school performance, sickness – basically every measure is negative,” Brooks said.
Neighboring state, South Carolina has a mandatory one year waiting period, while Tennessee has virtually no waiting period.
For couples, this waiting period may be troublesome, especially in incidents where one spouse is abusive. In domestic violence situations, the counseling classes would do little to resolve the estranged couple’s problems and in the worst case put a person in danger.
Leaving a spouse is not something many people take lightly; some people consider divorce for years before actually taking the step. So a longer waiting period can take and emotional toll on the couple and their children, and is unlikely to change the fact that they want to get divorced.
North Carolina isn’t the only state in so many months that have introduced legislation to increase the divorce waiting period and if they are successful it will only be the fourth state have an extensive cooling-off period. The overwhelming majority of no-fault divorce states have waiting periods of only 90 days or less, while a handful require a couple to wait a year.
Even though recent data from the U.S. Census showed that the national divorce rate is decreased slightly over the past two decades, lawmakers believe that if legislation can stop divorce than it’s worth trying.