Olympia, WA- State lawmakers are considering a bill that would change the minimum waiting period for divorce from 90 days to a year in the interest of keeping families together. But is this effective in actually preventing divorce?
Senate Bill 5614, which has been dubbed the Family Second Chances Act, would extend the divorce waiting period from 90 days to one year, according to KING 5.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Don Benton said of the bill, “Divorce causes poverty, juvenile delinquency and lower scholastic achievement among children of our state. Even a modest reduction I divorce in our state could be beneficial to children.”
The idea is that a longer waiting period will give the estranged couple more time to think about their decision.
The divorce rate in the U. S. is high with a failure rate of at least 50 percent. While it is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of such a high rate of divorce family advocates believe that extending the waiting period can save some families.
Many states used to a have long waiting period before a couple could file for divorce. The changes in the law was hailed as a progressive move meant to give women more opportunities and divorce laws work under the assumption that by the time a couple files they are certain they want a divorce, and that the waiting period was meant to help them work out custody agreements and property division, but one thing a shorter waiting period neglects is reconciliation.
A study conducted by a former Chief Justice if Georgia, Leah Sears and family relations scholar and Professor of family relations William Doherty, published by the Witherspoon Institute in 2011, came up with some surprising results when they surveyed couples in the middle of a divorce.
Forty percent of the couples in the divorce process revealed that one or both of the parties wanted to go through the reconciliation process, but it is rarely a legal requirement in states. They also found in 10 percent of in the process, both of the parties wanted to try reconciliation, unbeknownst to each other.
“This finding is stunning,” Sears and Doherty point out. “It tells us that we have a major new opportunity to help millions of American families. . . . The research findings presented in this report clearly suggest that today’s very high U.S. divorce rate is not only costly to taxpayers, it is not only harmful to children, it is also, to a degree that we are only now understanding, preventable.”
The Witherspoon Institute also reported that a study by economist Leora Friedberg discovered that states which have a minimum of a year waiting period experienced small decreases in the divorce rates than states with shorter waiting periods.
Those opposed to longer waiting periods believe that it can unnecessarily delay the inevitable and create more misery for the estranged couple.
No legislation is one size fits all and the results of studies that are pro-longer waiting periods are not bullet proof. A marriage cannot be saved by legislation alone, but making a couple wait to be certain they are making the right decision may be beneficial to their children. What do you think should couples be required to wait longer before getting a divorce?