Two states propose marriage counseling pre-divorce bills

Right now two states are looking at creating a law to make counseling mandatory for couples who are seeking a divorce.

As of now, Nebraskan judges can attempt to order marriage counseling before a divorce, but only if both people agree to it. But, if bill LB408 is passed, in cases where one person wants to save the marriage, a judge would be able to mandate the two to counseling.

In addition, the law would also make it mandatory for judges to order counseling for those couples trying to divorce who have children under the age of 18.

So far the bill is getting both support and opposition. In some people’s eyes – with between 40 and 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce – counseling might help those who are not in a bitter, angry unsolvable fight, and may just help them repair the damage that has been done.

But on the flip side to that, many are concerned about the cases where counseling still didn’t work and two people had to be dragged through the entire lengthy process, only to end up still getting a divorce in the end anyway.

The issues related to cost were also brought up recently to the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. One attorney, who spoke on behalf of the state’s bar association, said in some cases people are struggling just to pay fees associated with divorce, and wondered how those same people are now also expected to also be able to spend even more money on counseling.

While there’s no word on anything like this being introduced in Missouri, a similar bill is also being considered in Wyoming, only in that state – if passed – couples would either have to go through counseling or wait one year before getting a divorce.

In Missouri there are no mandated counseling laws, however, couples do have the choice to pick a collaborative divorce, which is a good fit for some couples and can save money and lessen the impact on children. In a collaborative divorce, each person hires a specially trained attorney in an effort to mediate through difficult decisions and come to an agreement without having to wait for a judge’s decision. While this is not counseling to save a marriage, it is counseling to dissolve one in amicably.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, “Testimony opens on proposed divorce counseling law,” Kevin O’Hanlon, 3 Feb 2011

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