Some advocate for increased waiting periods in divorce

Boston family law observers might be interested in a recent article discussing the state of the institution of marriage and the rate of divorce in the U.S. today. According to figures from the U.S. Census, men in 1960 divorced at a rate of 1.8 percent, while the figure for women was 2.8 percent.

By 2011, that figure had climbed: Eleven percent of women and 9 percent of men were divorced. The authors not so subtly argue that a possible reason for this increase may be that some states make it too easy for couples to divorce. But is it really the state’s job to keep married couples together against their will when they have decided a divorce is in their best interests?

In support of their argument, the authors cite figures that link divorce rates to the time a state requires couples to wait before finalizing the divorce. Data collected by a member of the divorce reform movement assert that 10 states currently lack a waiting period, and nine of those states are among the top 10 for the highest divorce rates. Most states have a waiting period of less than six months, but 12 states have a period of six months or greater.

Some divorce reform advocates are attempting to increase the length of waiting periods in some states. But with the overwhelming majority of states already adhering to some length of waiting period, one has to wonder what additional benefit could be derived from extending them.

In fact, waiting periods may have some counterproductive effects. Advocates of eliminating domestic violence say that compelling couples to stay together longer may result in wives being exposed to additional abuse in relationships they need to escape. In many states that have considered lengthening their waiting periods, legislators have been unable to reach a consensus. In others, however, bills have become law. The debate over waiting periods will likely not go away any time soon.

Source: Deseret News, “Reforming Divorce: Changing Laws to Preserve Families,” Sara Israelsen-Hartley, July 14, 2012.

• Divorce requires a consideration of a number of issues, from finances to children. If you would like more information on our firm’s practice, please visit our Massachusetts divorce page.

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