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Trend in the Making? Marriage, Divorce Counseling Law Proposed

At least one state legislature has introduced a bill this year that would mandate pre-marital and pre-divorce counseling. The Illinois General Assembly hasn't tackled the subject, and it may not need to. The divorce rate here is 2.6 per 1,000 residents, lower than the national rate of 3.4 and less than half the top rate of 6.6 (Nevada). Wyoming, the state considering the counseling bill, has the third-highest rate at 5.2 per 1,000.

The bill's sponsor said the proposal is designed to lower the state's divorce rate. It's a way to encourage couples "to understand the consequences of life-changing decisions," he said. One of those consequences has to do with children: Divorce is a leading cause of children ending up in poverty.

The bill requires couples to pay for three hours of premarital counseling in order to get a license. If they choose not to go through the counseling, they cannot obtain a license for a year. The pre-divorce counseling augments the existing law mandating pre-divorce co-parenting counseling. Also, the bill would allow a judge to waive the counseling in cases of domestic violence; the accuser would not have to sit alongside the accused.

The sessions are about education, continued the bill's sponsor. Both pre-marital and pre-divorce counseling will help couples address the issues that cause the most stress in a relationship: money management, child rearing and conflict resolution.

News reports have cited just one criticism of the bill. The lobbying group would support a bill that would reduce divorce as long as constitutional rights aren't compromised. The organization did not specify which rights could be at risk.

Resource: "Bill Would Require Marriage, Divorce Counseling" 01/10/11

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