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Bill could require waiting period, counseling before divorce

What if New Jersey required couples that had filed for divorce to spend time considering the repercussions of doing so? That is what one state is trying to do with a new bill that some are hoping will be passed. The effects it would have on family law could be profound and if they are seen as beneficial, other states may begin adopting similar legislative mandates.

The bill is not ready to be voted on yet. Most recently, a committee hearing was held so that arguments both for and against it could be heard by a legislative body capable of bringing the measure to a vote. It is unclear at this time whether a vote will be held. Some items from the hearing point towards one while others point against.

If turned into law, the bill would mandate that divorcing couples spend a six-month waiting period before the divorce is granted. During this time, couples will be required to participate in five one-hour counseling sessions, either together or separate. These counseling sessions will address two different subjects: post-marital finance planning and the effects of divorce on children. The former subject will take up two sessions while the latter will take up three. The waiting period and counseling sessions would not apply to couples experiencing domestic abuse.

Proponents of the bill said that it is focused on the well-being of children. Studies suggesting that children of divorce are worse off were mentioned but it seemed that none were cited.

When discussing the counseling sessions, a sponsor of the bill was questioned about the curriculum and who could act as a counselor. The sponsor responded by stating that no curriculum was written yet but it could be addressed in the bill's language. He added that counselors can be clergymen, licensed marriage therapists and paid or volunteer counselors.

Source: The Bismarck Tribune, "Bill mandates counseling, waiting period for divorce," Nick Smith, Feb. 11, 2013

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