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January 28, 2014

Okla. bill aims to curb divorce rate

MUSKOGEE — An Oklahoma state representative has filed a bill that would increase the waiting period for most Oklahoma couples seeking a divorce.

Rep. Arthur Hulbert, R-Fort Gibson, said the measure is aimed at reducing Oklahoma’s divorce rate, which is the second-highest in the country, the Muskogee Phoenix reported. His measure, filed in advance of the legislative session that begins Feb. 3, calls for a six-month waiting period for most divorces.

“I feel like we have a bill that will help strengthen families and give them time to rethink reconciliation,” Hulbert said. “I believe marriages have value, and I think society only benefits if we strengthen the family.”

Hulbert said his bill would include exemptions for adultery and cases in which an individual is convicted of child abuse or domestic abuse. The measure also includes exceptions for abandonment, extreme cruelty and habitual drunkenness.

But some researchers question whether lengthening the waiting period would have a positive effect.

Stephanie Coontz, research and public education director for the Council on Contemporary Families, said states that ease divorce laws see a drop in domestic violence and suicide rates among wives.

“So, when you think about trying to reverse the ease of divorce, you may be incurring some real risks,” Coontz said. This could be more true “in times of economic stress, which do tend to increase domestic violence,” she said.

Muskogee County District Judge Mike Norman said he has no problem with a longer waiting period, especially when children are involved, even if it imposes economic hardship on the divorcing parties.

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