Thursday, July 3, 2008

Texas State Representative Hopes to Extend Waiting Time for Divorce


There is no shortage of laws surrounding the specifics of marriage and divorce in our country – who can get married, who can perform a marriage, child custody and financial settlements in a divorce, etc. are all determined by government. Some argue that the government must be involved in such matters for reasons of economics and a basic social order. Others believe that the government has a deeper role to play in the establishment and perpetuation of the family. One person who believes the latter is our very own Texas State Rep. Warren Chisum.

Rep. Chisum plans to reintroduce a proposal when the state legislature reconvenes in January 2009 that would require married couples to wait two years before a divorce can be finalized. This “cooling-off” waiting period would be waived if both parties agree to take part in a ten-hour, two-day course that is intended to save the marital relationship. Under current Texas law, the parties must wait sixty days before finalizing their divorce.

While Rep. Chisum’s proposed legislation concerning divorce died in a House committee on its first go around last year, he did succeed in passing a law that will raise the cost of a marriage license in Texas from $30 to $60, with the fee being waived if the couple takes a premarital class. This change goes into effect on September 1st of this year. As Rep. Chisum explained, "We're going to attack it at both ends — marriage and divorce — in an effort to keep families together. If this just saves one marriage, it'll be fine with me."

Other policymakers do not agree with the steps that Rep. Chisum is making to keep marriages intact. As Rep. Jessica Farrar said, "I don't think it's the government's job to force people to stay unhappily married." Advocacy groups, such as Texas Council on Family Violence, are concerned that husbands or wives might be forced to stay in abusive marriages in order to comply with the law. We will find out next year what the majority of Texas’ elected officials think about Rep. Chisum’s efforts on this matter.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who specialize in the emotional issues surrounding divorce, child custody and other aspects of family law. If you need legal advice in this area, please do not hesitate to contact our offices in Austin, Houston or San Antonio to discuss your situation.

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