Senate bill would make it harder to untie knot in NC

Posted April 1, 2013

— State lawmakers are considering making divorces harder to get in North Carolina.

Senate Bill 518, dubbed the Healthy Marriage Act, would double the one-year waiting period before a divorce could be granted and would require husband and wife to receive conflict resolution counseling, as well as counseling if they have children. Supporters said they believe the restrictions will help cut the state's divorce rate.

"North Carolina has a very high divorce rate – one of the worst – and it's probably because we've been lax in our divorce laws. Made it too easy," said bill sponsor Sen. Austin Allran, R-Catawba.

North Carolina's divorce rate was 3.8 per 1,000 marriages in 2009, compared with the U.S. rate of 3.4 divorces, according to the most recent Census Bureau statistics. The state ranked 19th nationwide.

Tara Benson, whose divorce will be final at the end of the month, said she doesn't think another year of pain would have saved her marriage. She said she got married too young, and it simply didn't work.

"One year was definitely long enough, and it was too long in a lot of senses," Benson said. "I just think it delays the inevitable and just hurts in the process. It just draws out a process that you don't want to have to deal with."

Wedding generic, marriage generic Senator wants counseling, cohabitation before divorces

North Carolina's one-year waiting period is already longer than most other Southeast states. Georgia and Tennessee, for example, require only a few weeks before a divorce is granted, and Florida couples can file online to have their marriages dissolved. Virginia and South Carolina require no more than a year's wait, and Alabama has no waiting period.

Allran said he also wants to scrap the mandatory separation during the waiting period and have couples remain under the same roof.

"Instead of telling people that they cannot cohabitate during that period of time because, after all, they are married, if they would be able to continue (living together)," he said.

The proposal doesn't offer any exceptions for domestic violence or abuse, but Allran said he might add that to the bill before its first hearing in committee, which could come this week.

Benson said lawmakers shouldn't try to make divorce any more difficult to endure for people trying to put a mistake behind them and get on with their lives.

"Neither one of us wanted to be in it anymore. We were both done," she said. "Let's move on with our lives. I've moved on, you moved on. We're both a lot happier now."


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  • thefensk Apr 4, 2013

    NC has awful divorce laws and this would make it worse. The time for mandatory counseling is before you receive a marriage license. You don't grant an drivers license without some study and a test. With marriage, too many people practice "behind the wheel" and never have any "classroom theory" before being granted a license.
    My understanding is that the reason for the separation is because THAT is legal basis for divorce in NC ... separation for a year. I totally agree with the poster who mentioned "prolonging the pain" ... that really won't help a thing ... it might line the lawyer's pockets a little more though.

  • brassy Apr 4, 2013

    "You cannot legislate morality."

    Tell the GOP that! They preach jobs jobs jobs at election time, then spend the whole term coming up with these ridiculous backward ideas.

  • yinyangtkdgirl Apr 3, 2013

    Requiring counseling during the two year waiting period really is not going to help the couple stay together. My ex-husband and I were married 15 years when we separated. We had the pre marital counseling that I have seen several people say is helpful. None of this, in the long run kept us together. I don't believe that counseling works either before marriage or when it is failing.

  • itsmyownopinion Apr 3, 2013

    If passed, this piece of legislation would put domestic violence victims at even more serious risk.

  • yinyangtkdgirl Apr 3, 2013

    and would require husband and wife to receive conflict resolution counseling,

    lol...anyone who has gone through the divorce knows ... the day the divorce is final is the conflict resolution


    Couldn't have said it better!

  • yinyangtkdgirl Apr 3, 2013

    All this bill is going to do is keep me from ever remarrying.

  • yinyangtkdgirl Apr 3, 2013

    "Allran said he also wants to scrap the mandatory separation during the waiting period and have couples remain under the same roof."

    Extend the waiting period? Bad idea...Continue to have them remain under the same roof? Yeah, this isn't going to cause the domestic violence rate to increase.

  • apslatton Apr 2, 2013

    how about staying out of our personal lives. you should worry more about getting the state out of debt, jobs etc and less about peoples' lives, when you can barely run your own.

  • soyousay Apr 2, 2013

    and this just in... the clownfest.... "A group of state senators wants to invalidate a policy allowing students of the opposite gender to share suites and apartments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill starting this fall"

  • kmt Apr 2, 2013

    Please don't get married!!!