Some (like the Huffington Post) are calling it The Most Pioneering Divorce Reform Effort in 40 Years. I agree, and I’m happy to be involved in this initiative. If you support marriage, please read and follow the links, and share your thoughts with me.
Why Divorce Reform?
Those who advocate divorce reform have one goal in mind: to reduce the number of unnecessary divorces in the United States. Since two-thirds of our nation’s divorces are from low-conflict marriages, there are many marriages that can and should be saved.
Many of you may ask, “Why we should put our noses in other people’s business?” The most important reason is that we know from decades of research that divorce is very harmful to children, and unnecessary divorces unnecessarily harms them in the short- and long-term. During the 70s, when no-fault divorce was enacted, experts believed children would be resilient if their parents followed their hearts and divided the family. We now know even “good” divorces negatively affect children’s physical, psychological and social health for their lifetime. The negative effects are longer and stronger than anyone predicted, and our society is paying a heavy price.
The second reason is financial. Each year tens of billions of taxpayer dollars are spent on the divorce-associated fallout, not including the millions spent on individual legal fees to obtain divorces. That’s money we can’t afford as a society to waste. (This pdf offers an overview by Georgia Family Council and the American for Family Values on the financial costs of family breakdown.)
The final reason I’ll bring up today is that we deserve much better. As adults, we deserve higher quality relationships and a stronger understanding of the benefits a committed marriage brings to us as individuals and to the greater society. Heartbreak and anguish can be assuaged if marriages can be improved and divorces are no longer needed for us as individuals and couples to feel whole and fulfilled. We can be better parents and better spouses by learning how to strengthen marriages and families.
What is the Coalition for Divorce Reform?
The Coalition for Divorce Reform (CDR) is a non-partisan coalition of divorce reform leaders, marriage educators, domestic violence experts, scholars and concerned citizens dedicated to efforts to reduce unnecessary divorce and promote healthy marriages. It was initiated by Chris Gersten, a former high ranking official in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responsible for launching the Federal government’s Healthy Marriage Initiative.
Chris worked with divorce attorneys, domestic violence experts and victims of divorce to craft the Parental Divorce Reduction Act (“PDRA”). After the Act was drafted, Chris formed a 17-member advisory board that includes the nation’s leading marriage educators, scholars, attorneys, political leaders and other concerned citizens. It’s bi-partisan and includes people from left to right. The coalition has also reached out to hundreds of community activists and state leaders. Divorce Reform Advisory Committee Chair, Beverly Willett, announced the formation of the coalition as well as its new web site, at Huffington Post yesterday and interviews Chris about its chances for success. The article also provides some reasons on why this initiative is different from other divorce reform efforts of the recent past.
You can find out exactly what the act involves by following this link but in brief, the act applies only to married parents of minor children and exempts victims of domestic violence, spouses of felons and sex offenders, spouses who have been abandoned for 18 months, and spouses of alcoholics and drug addicts who refuse rehabilitation. The act’s purpose is to reduce unnecessary divorce, decrease parental conflict and litigation surrounding divorce, and educate parents regarding the impact of divorce on families. Research shows at least one-third of couples planning to divorce are open to reconciliation. The act would require some educational sessions and an eight-month waiting period prior to filing for divorce. (As a comparison, couples in Britain or France who want a no-fault divorce that is opposed by a spouse must live apart for five or six years, respectively, allowing time for reconciliation. The U.S. has no-fault divorce in every state with no waiting period.)
How You Can Support Divorce Reform
Nine bloggers initially launched the Divorce Reform web site that supports the coalition. I was honored to be a part of this initiative as one of its first bloggers. The blog offers an honest look at the effects of divorce as well as possible solutions. We invite your participation in the dialogue.
Hop on over to the blog and read some insightful posts. For example, read “Confessions of an unabashed marriage saver” by Michele Weiner-Davis; “Why is America’s divorce rate the highest in the world?” by Mike McManus; “Denial: the price of our children’s best interests” by Kevin Senich. You can also read my post among others and learn why being a child of divorce is a risk for early death.
Please share the blog with your friends and family, with pro-marriage organizations and bloggers, and with anyone who cares about marriage and family.
What do you think about the potential for this kind of legislation? What are your thoughts about the impact of divorce on adults and children? What suggestions do you have? If you live outside the U.S., how does divorce compare in your country?
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