By Chris Kramer
The dawn of a new year is nearly always accompanied by the introduction of several new bills and/or laws. 2008 is no exception - lawmakers around the country have been busy trying to improve the nation, and here are some of their latest proposals focusing on divorce laws.
Recent reports from the Clarion-Ledger have highlighted some new ideas for divorce legislation popping up in Mississippi. Apparently, Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant wants to strengthen the state's families, and has suggested some moves that would basically make divorces harder to get in MS.
Bryant, who quoted statistics that 47% of children in Mississippi are raised in single parent homes, reportedly suggested measures like pre-marital education, more expensive marriage certificates, mandatory counseling and stricter rules governing divorces by those who choose covenant marriages.
Unfortunately, sources show that very few Mississippi residents currently opt for covenant marriages, so the measure, if passed into law, likely wouldn't have a serious impact on the state's divorce rates.
Critics of raising the cost of marriage licenses and requiring marriage counseling have pointed out that these measures could be interpreted as taxes on the poor or might even have the unintended effect of deterring people from marrying in the first place.
As far as family and marriage education classes, which Bryant reportedly proposed he taught in high schools, naysayers have noted that regulating such courses would be tricky and complicated.
Bryant has also allegedly suggested a mandatory "cooling off period" for couples considering divorce, which would be similar to the waiting period some states have. In this period, the married couple would live separately.
Proposals in South Dakota focused more narrowly on the issue of child custody.
According to the Rapid City Journal, South Dakota legislators are working on a bill that would change the requirements for having initial custody of children during a divorce case. Currently, South Dakota law mandates that whichever parent cared for the children for the majority of the 30 days leading up to the divorce filing will have initial custody.
But, according to reports, many felt that the 30 day period was insufficient to determine a real pattern of care-giving.
If the proposed legislation passes, initial custody will go to the parent who spent the most time caring for the children during the 12-month period preceding the divorce.
This bit of proposed divorce reform is apparently part of a larger effort to improve the state's divorce policies. According to reports, earlier efforts to make changes had focused on issues too small and diverse to have serious impact. Now, it seems, lawmakers want to accomplish a more sweeping overhaul of the state's divorce laws.