Making Indiana Divorce Tougher Would Do More Harm Than Good

Our Hammond divorce lawyers have become familiar with an advocacy group that is essentially seeking to make divorces in this country more difficult to obtain.

Citing the negative impacts of divorce and the damage that it can cause to children, the Coalition for Divorce Reform has pushed for legislation – most recently in Georgia and North Carolina – that would increase divorce waiting periods, mandate family counseling and eliminate laws that require divorcing couples to live apart.
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While not every element of these measures is necessarily bad, and in fact could benefit some families, our divorce attorneys worry that such provisions don’t take into account situations where a quick resolution is not only desirable, but necessary.

A perfect example would be in a case of domestic violence or other abuse. Of course, the North Carolina legislation allowed for exceptions to the waiting period and counseling requirement in cases of physical abuse, but that assumes the victim was one of those who actually called and reported it to police. Most don’t. And it also doesn’t account for verbal and emotional abuse, which can be equally damaging.

Another example would be one in which there has been infidelity. In these cases, even when it’s painful, people often know from the very beginning that, “It’s over,” and there is no point in dragging it out.

In a lot of divorces, the marriage has not been working for some time. Both spouses and even the children may be fully aware, and even accepting of it. Making the process take longer ends up benefiting no one, and simply makes it harder for everyone to move on.

In Georgia, House Bill 684 would not apply to couples who were childless. It would apply only to those with at least one child more than six months shy of their 17th birthday or couples who are expecting. In those cases, parents would be mandated to participate in eight-hour parenting classes and counseling sessions. The measure would also lengthen the waiting time for a divorce.

Exceptions would be made in certain cases, such as when the couple has been living apart for five years or more, or when one partner is serving a prison sentence.

However, these measures don’t account for the fact that every divorce – just like every marriage – is a bit different, and that what works for one family may be harmful to another. Forcing people to try to work it out first isn’t the answer. We have to trust that if an adult has decided to walk away from a marriage, he or she must have a good reason for doing so. And even if they do not, it is their prerogative. They will still have to abide by the laws governing child support and other financial obligations. But beyond that, we should not be using legislation to force people to repair emotional bonds.

In Indiana, assuming at least one spouse meets the residency requirement, there is a 60-day waiting period after the divorce is filed before the proceedings can continue and the divorce can be finalized.

Of course, many divorces end up taking longer than that anyway because there are often many ties to be untangled in the course of a separation.

Making couples wait any longer is not only unnecessary, it’s unfair.

Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce and child custody matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:
When Divorce Is a Family Affair, Feb. 13, 2013, Debate, By Vicki Larson and Beverly Willett, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
High Conflict Child Custody in Indiana Now Resolved Through Parallel Parenting, March 15, 2013, Hammond Divorce Lawyer Blog