Teri Finneman reports for Inforum in Bismarck that a North Dakota bill that sought to delay divorces for couples with children and require marriage counseling was turned into a study this week.
Senate Bill 2367 now asks for a 2011-12 interim state study looking into the physical, emotional and financial effects associated with divorces involving dependent children.
The study asks for legislative policy solutions, including divorce reform legislation and marriage education.
The amended bill received a 5-1 do-pass recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which voiced opposition to the original bill.
Under the original version, North Dakotans who want to get a divorce would have needed to wait one year and participate jointly or separately in at least 10 one-hour marriage counseling sessions.
The revised bill calling for a study now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Original Senate Bill 2367
of North Dakota
Senators Larsen, Sitte, Wanzek
Representatives Grande, Koppelman, Ruby
A BILL for an Act to create and enact a new section to chapter 14-05 of the North Dakota
Century Code, relating to a waiting period for divorce and to mandatory marital counseling.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF NORTH DAKOTA:
SECTION 1. A new section to chapter 14-05 of the North Dakota Century Code is created and enacted as follows:
Divorce proceeding – Waiting period – Mandatory marital counseling.
1. In an action for divorce which includes the issue of parental rights and responsibilities and which does not include substantiated allegations of domestic abuse, the court may not issue a final order for at least twelve months from the date of the filing of the petition.
2. Within the twelve-month waiting period, the adult parties to the action shall participate jointly or separately in at least ten 1-hour marital counseling sessions. The marital counseling, which may be provided by a paid or volunteer counselor, clergy member, or any state – certified or licensed marriage mediator, must include at least four sessions that focus on postmarital financial planning.
3. The court may not require both parents to attend the same course at the same time. Each party shall arrange for participation in the marital counseling sessions. The parties are responsible for the fees or costs of the marital counseling sessions. The court may assess the counseling fees or costs as the court deems equitable.
4. A final decree may not be granted or a final order may not be entered until each party submits to the court certification of completion of the marital counseling.