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Could "cooling-off" requirement lower divorce rate?

Maryland readers will be familiar with the nationwide debate concerning the recent legislative push to make it more difficult for couples to obtain a divorce. States across the nation have implemented a range of laws aimed at supporting marriage by placing legal roadblocks to divorce. In reality, however, these measures would be more aptly considered mere speed bumps for those spouses who are committed to the idea of ending their marriage.

Some of these laws create what are known as "cooling-off" periods. These are simply required waiting periods between filing for divorce and the finalization of the divorce process. The idea seems to be that couples who must delay ending their marriage will find a way to work through their differences as they wait for the timeline to conclude. This concept assumes that most marital problems are ones that can be solved, and also that both spouses sincerely want to remain married.

In reality, couples seek divorce for a wide variety of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with an impulsive or knee-jerk emotional reaction to some minor marital issue. For those who are truly ready to move beyond an untenable marriage, a forced waiting period could very well feel like a jail sentence. For those who are involved in an abusive or controlling marriage, having to wait to move on can lead to even more aggressive actions on the part of the spouse who is being left behind.

While most Americans support the concept of strengthening marriage, many feel that it is not the role of the government to do so. At least not in a way that steps right up to the line of infringing on a couple's ability to dictate the course of their own wedded union. Spouses in Maryland and across the nation will continue to monitor the advancement of these types of legislative proposals, as the outcome could shape the future of divorce law for many.

Source: Deseret News, "Get married, stay married? No fault divorce under fire", Eric Schulzke, April 18, 2014

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