America has the highest divorce rate in the industrialized world, and a lot of people have been trying to figure out what to do about that. One idea of how to save a marriage is the Parental Divorce Reform Act, a new proposal drafted by a group of psychologists, lawyers, social workers, and other health professionals, intended to reduce the number of unnecessary divorces among couples with minor children. The act is based on a bevy of findings about the negative repercussions of divorce, most taken from the 8-decade Longevity study. For example:
• Parental divorce has negative impact on children’s longevity, standard of living, and physical and mental health
• Divorce has a negative impact on the divorcing parents’ mental and physical health
• One third of divorcing couples stated that they would be open to reconciliation and couple’s counseling if it were easily available
The act proposes that couples with children take a mandatory marriage education course and then wait an 8-month “reconciliation period” before going through with the divorce. The requirements would be waived in any case where domestic abuse or illegal activities were involved. You can read more about the details of the proposal here.
Obviously this is just one suggestion of how to save a marriage and has a long way to go before being enacted into law. But it sparks some interesting discussion. Henry Gornbein, a family law specialist, wrote an editorial on the law and its provisions for the Huffington Post. Gornbein supports the law and at the same time brings up some concerns. As mentioned above, the 8-month waiting period is waved in cases of domestic abuse. But how does one define domestic abuse? Power dynamics between couples is often uneven and each relationship has it’s own nuances. For example, he writes,
(3) What about situations where there has been a history of threats and coercion, but without actual physical violence?
(4) What about a situation where one spouse is using intimidation towards the other?
(5) What about the situation where there is emotional abuse, but no physical abuse?
(6) What if one spouse is using the children to relay messages or putting the children in a very uncomfortable position, but there is no physical abuse?
(7) What if one spouse is using economic abuse towards the other by failing to disclose assets, or keeping control of the finances?
These are all import aspects of abuse that often go ignored by those inside and outside such situations. This is certainly an issue that lawmakers and advisors will be thinking about if the proposal goes further.
Gornbein’s second concern is the cost of the mandatory divorce reconciliation program. This will supposedly be self-funding through increases in the cost of marriage licenses. However, as one commenter on the post pointed out, professional counseling services are often very expensive and this fund would soon run out. Well now…Power of Two would be an excellent solution to this problem! The Power of Two program is affordable, easily accessible (3 out of 4 Americans have internet access as of 2005), and provides a unique balance of personalized coaching and go-at-your-own-pace control.
As married couples, what do you think should be done about the divorce rates in the USA? Would you be open to mandatory marriage counseling before divorce?