Longer divorce wait offers time for emotions to cool


Recently there has been reaction to a bill that I have signed onto, House File 2962 authored by Rep. Peggy Scott, that establishes a two-year waiting period before finalizing a divorce when one spouse objects to the divorce and there are minor children in the home.

The bill, however, permits a spouse to seek a divorce immediately when there is domestic abuse, adultery, chemical dependency, or desertion.

Some argue that this bill is unnecessary and unfair. The exact opposite is true – it is a reasonable response to the often-devastating consequences of divorce in the lives of children and parents. This legislation simply seeks to establish a cooling-off period before a divorce can be finalized.

Research shows that, in response to difficult times in marriage (which all married couples experience), divorce is too often the first source of recourse. At the same time, research also shows that when couples work through these difficult patches, their marriage can flourish and be very successful.

The tragedy is that under our current, unilateral divorce system, it’s easier to walk away from a 10-year marriage than a $500 business agreement. Yet the consequences of divorce in the lives of children and parents are often devastating. Children experience far higher rates of poverty and personal difficulties after their parents have gone through a divorce. This bill simply says, outside of adultery, abuse, and desertion, taking the time to work through marriage difficulties is in everyone’s best interest.

Currently, most states have some waiting period in order to receive a divorce. Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Missouri have two-year waiting periods. Minnesota is one of only 13 states that have no waiting period. Interestingly, in Europe three-year waiting periods are common.

One of the things I’ve learned serving my first term in the Minnesota Legislature is that we are constantly called upon to deal with the consequences of family breakup and divorce. Whether it is battles over custody and visitation in our courts, or increased demand for social services to help single parents and children who face higher rates of poverty, the state is called to step in and fill the gap. Ultimately, this means taxpayers are called to fund these services with higher taxes.

To say divorce is purely a private matter with no public consequences simply doesn’t line up with the facts. It is reasonable and fair to put a speed bump in the road to easy divorce when minor children are involved and one spouse wants to work to save the marriage.

All bills that are introduced have the opportunity for scrutiny and revision. This bill is meant to start a discussion about the current laws in Minnesota that make divorce all too easy.

I am interested in feedback from my constituents regarding this issue. Please feel free to contact me by email at [email protected]. My hope is that we can positively affect the future for children by strengthening the family.

Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Lake Elmo, can be reached at 651-296-4244. She can also be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or via U.S. Mail at 521 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.