North Dakota’s SB 2367 A Major Setback for Amicable Divorces

The North Dakota legislature has introduced SB 2367 which would require that couples with children seeking divorce must wait one year and undergo mandatory counseling before proceeding. During the one year waiting period, couples would have to participate separately or jointly in at least 10 one-hour counseling sessions. I won’t comment on the irony of a so-called conservative legislature that hails the importance of ‘freedom’ imposing excessive and inappropriate government intrusion into such a personal and private matter as divorce. These are the compatriots of those from South Dakota who came up with HB 1171 that would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings intended to prevent harm to a fetus so that it would be legal to kill doctors who perform abortions.

Perhaps, they could consider instead following the lead of the thoughtful folks in the New Zealand Family Courts who provide free, yes free, counseling to folks experiencing marital problems or contemplating divorce. The confidential service provides therapists who can possibly help the couple resolve their marital problems and is recommended before filing for divorce. The counseling is offered rather than made mandatory, and again, it is free – both of which would likely go a long way to actually achieving the objective the North Dakota legislature would have us believe is their goal – helping to save marriages or at least reach agreements that facilitate a smooth and amicable divorce. California courts may not be as progressive as those in New Zealand but nor are they as regressive as those in North Dakota. We still have the opportunity to divorce in ways that serve the interest of the family and maintain positive relationships.

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