Bill aims to give families, divorcing couples a second chance
Come Friday, in a state Senate hearing room, lawmakers will consider a bill forcing couples who've lost that loving feeling to work harder and wait longer to get a divorce.
Under Senate Bill 5614, couples filing for divorce would have to wait one year before the dissolution is final. The wait currently is 90 days.
Time alone won't make the breakup legal. A handbook with research on reconciliation and a directory of resources for reconciling must be prepared by the state Administrative Office of the Courts -- and the couple must swear they've read it before a divorce decree is issued.
Supporters -- a band of socially conservative Republican and Democratic lawmakers -- are calling this the Family Second Chances Act.
"Divorce causes poverty, juvenile delinquency, and lower scholastic achievement among children of our state," reads the opening language of the bill. "Even a modest reduction of divorce in our state could be beneficial to children. Empowering couples with education on non-adversarial approaches to divorce, reconciliation information and resources, and increasing the waiting period for a dissolution can be beneficial to families of our state."
Washington's wrestled with and rewritten its divorce rules before.
For much of the last century, dissolutions of marriage became permanent after six months. Under old laws, spouses needed to cite a specific reason for seeking a divorce such as adultery, habitual drunkenness of either party or someone's consent to the marriage was obtained by fraud or force.
In 1973, Washington became what's known as a "no-fault" divorce state meaning spouses could obtain a divorce by simply claiming their marriage "irretrievably broken."
The proposed bill doesn't change that language. Rather it makes couples wait a year to figure out if cracks in their matrimonial bond can be sealed or the thrill of marriage is completely gone.
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Five weeks into the 2013 legislative session and the most interesting story continues to be the state Senate where a coalition dominated by Republicans and led by a Democrat is in control.
This alliance is forging ahead on its agenda, pushing through bills on funding school construction, reforming workers compensation and improving public safety.
And it's managed to keep an internal riff on abortion rights hidden from public view.
But Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, the coalition leader, probably can't do so much longer after the curveball thrown his way by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley.
Padden pledged publicly Feb. 4 to conduct a hearing on the Reproductive Parity Act, a bill he opposes, which requires insurers covering maternity services to also cover abortions.
Two days later, Padden changed his mind. Apparently conservatives bent Padden's ear, reminding him Democrats didn't give the time of day to anti-abortion bills authored by Republicans so why was he not burying the proposal sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.
Tom told Hobbs and anyone who asked that the bill would get a hearing. He hasn't said when or where and it can't be easy figuring out.
He could try to change Padden's mind. More likely Tom will seek to send it to another panel where it could be considered then allowed to rot as most members of the coalition want to see happen.
Hobbs also is chairman of a committee dealing with insurance. There's a chance Tom will attempt to send it there. Doing so would guarantee the bill stays alive longer and anger those same coalition members.
This will test Tom's talents and provide one more good plot line in the most entertaining story of the session.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield's blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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