Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cynthia Davis explains her "Marriage Matters in Missouri" bill

In her latest column, Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, details her "Marriage Matters in Missouri" legislation:

The Wallbuilders recently hosted a conference for the state legislators. While there, we had the opportunity to hear from some of the country’s foremost experts. One idea that was particularly interesting has emerged into the “Marriage Matters in Missouri Bill”. This bill has the potential of cutting the divorce rate in half in our state. Even if you have a happy marriage, there is a financial burden borne on all taxpayers related to our divorce rates, not to mention the emotional toll divorce takes on children.

HB 1234 strengthens marriages in three ways:

1.) It waives part of the marriage license fee if the couple gets premarital counseling. If people go into the marriage with their eyes wide open, it may prevent some bad marriages from starting in the first place. I was surprised to discover that $27 of the marriage license fee goes toward child abuse and domestic violence shelters. Why should the innocent citizens who are doing something honorable, moral and foundational to our civilization be forced to pay for the damage caused by those who are behaving dishonorably? Statically, people who are “living together” are more likely to beat up their partners and children than married people, but they are not being asked to pay for domestic violence or child abuse. The philosophical premise behind this fee is insulting to all married people.

2.) It allows those who file for divorce an opportunity to get their filing fee refunded if they change their minds within a year of filing. This removes a psychological barrier that happens when people start down a destructive path and then have a financial incentive to continue with their plans. If the couple decides to reconcile, they should be able to get a refund. Perhaps they can use that money to attend a Retrouvaille weekend designed to be “a lifeline” for marriages or get some counseling. National Marriage Institute

3.) It would take Missouri from being one of 49 “No Fault Divorce” states to being a “Mutual Consent” state. If there are children in the home and if one of the parents doesn’t want a divorce, we must modify our “no fault” provisions for the sake of those children. We need to raise the bar a little higher to compensate for the economic, emotional and academic hardships borne by the children when their parents dissolve their stability. In general, children love both their parents and are happier when they have daily interaction with both their mom and dad.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, this should be an issue of importance to everyone:

Michael Reagan: “Divorce is where two adults take everything that matters to a child --- the child’s home, family, security and sense of being loved and protected --- and they smash it all up, leave it in ruins on the floor, then walk out and leave the child to clean up the mess.”

Hillary Clinton: “Recent studies demonstrate convincingly that while many adults claim to have benefited from divorce and single parenthood, most children have not. Children living with one parent or in stepfamilies are two to three times more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems as children living in two-parent families… A parent’s remarriage often does not seem to better the odds.”

Clinical psychologist, Diane Hopkins-Jones who specializes in marriage counseling said: “My beliefs are professional and personal, that conflict can be resolved, especially when there are children. In fact you have a moral responsibility to resolve them. The optimum chance for a child’s healthy development and spiritual growth is by having a good enough marriage modeling experience.”

Rutgers University sociology professor, David Popenoe says in USA Today that “The United States has the weakest families in the Western world because we have the highest divorce rate and the highest rate of solo parenting.”

So with all our prosperity and education, why does America have the highest divorce rate in the entire world? Professor of Ethics at Santa Clara University, William Spohn, thinks it is because Americans are self-absorbed ; they make their personal happiness the highest priority rather than being willing to sacrifice for the sake of others.

Americans are self-absorbed and according to freelance writer, Dana Krupinsky “The American attitude needs to be changed because commitment and responsibility are becoming second to personal needs.” Divorce-in-America

With “no-fault” divorce all the power belongs to the parent who wants the marriage to end, yet the one who thinks the marriage is worth saving is often left with the shortest end of the stick. Courts currently have no obligation to listen to the case of the spouse who doesn’t want to dissolve the marriage because our laws award the divorce every time regardless of any facts. Stop and think about this: In a business partnership if one party breaks the agreement, the judge will usually impose economic penalties to the side that broke their agreement. Marriage has far greater importance than a business relationship, yet our laws allow judges to dissolve them for breach of contract with no consequences? Under our current laws the innocent spouse can lose their home, finances and custody of their child / children while the guilty frequently get to walk away with a check for the marital equity and very little responsibility for ruining the lives of all the others involved.

If you need a divorce, don’t worry about it becoming too hard. Under my proposed changes, a family can still get an easy “no fault” divorce if:
a. There are no children in the home.
b. Both husband and wife agree they want to be divorced.
c. If adultery, abuse, abandonment, insanity or incarceration are factors.

Christmas is a particularly lonely time for those who have suffered from the loss of a spouse regardless of the reason. My heart goes out to you. It would be ideal if we could correct all the wrongs of the world, but each marriage is made up of imperfect people and therefore riddled with its own frustrations and surprises. After 29 years of marriage, my husband and I still love each other deeply, yet I have a great deal of compassion for those who are not in happy marriages. According to the National Survey of Families and Households, 86 percent of unhappily married people who stick it out find that, five years later, their marriages are happier. You should be encouraged to know the vast majority of these couples can come out of their difficulties and are once again satisfied with their marriages. There are benefits to all in the community when we strengthen our marriages and support them with policies that encourage stability, greater protection for the innocent and honor for all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one of those bills that sound good until you think about the ramifications. Under this bill, one spouse could effectively hold the other spouse hostage; this would be detrimental to the children and to a spouse, especially if one spouse is prone to verbal, mental or physical abuse. Of course, with physical abuse you could get a court order, but with mental abuse, you couldn't.
I don't think it will fly.