Can they do that? States consider mandatory divorce counseling

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce on Thursday, February 10, 2011

How would you feel if, having decided that the time had come for you and your spouse to seek a divorce, you were legally mandated to attend couple’s therapy before a judge would hear your case? This hypothetical situation may soon become a reality for couples in Nebraska and Wyoming. In an effort to lower divorce rates, legislators in these two states are introducing bills which would implement certain therapy requirements for couples attempting to end their marriage.

These bills are part of a continuing trend in legislative efforts to place further restrictions on the process of divorce. Similar legislation has been discussed and rejected in other states. In Texas and Oklahoma mandatory divorce counseling bills failed to garner sufficient political support during the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions. In Missouri, efforts to create “covenant marriage” legislation-another way of making a divorce harder to obtain-also never came to fruition. However, if Nebraska and Wyoming politicians approve the newly proposed divorce bills, these victories could represent a shift in the political atmosphere.

The bill being considered by the Nebraska State Assembly would allow judges to require couples counseling prior to granting a divorce in two cases: if the spouses have children who are still minors, or if one spouse opposes the divorce.

In Wyoming, the proposed bill would require couples to attend up to three hours of counseling during the divorce process, or be forced to wait a year before their claim can be processed.

In both cases, the laws provide no state or federal funds to cover the counseling sessions, therefore requiring potential divorcees to pay out of their own pocket.

Concern citizens are raising serious doubts regarding both these bills, such as are they constitutional? Will the measures actually lower divorce rates? What if a family cannot afford the cost of the mandated therapy? Our next post will take a closer look at these concerns.

Source: The Huffington Post. “Mandatory Couples Counseling Prior to Granting Divorces?” Liz Mandarano, 27 January 2011

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