Oklahoma lawmaker suggests longer wait time for divorce
If a local lawmaker has his way citizen’s of the state of Oklahoma would be forced to wait twice as long to dissolve their marriages. District 14 Rep. Arthur Hulbert, R-Fort Gibson, proposes to pass an amendment in the state of Oklahoma to help lower the divorce rates and reduce poverty.
According to Hulbert, Oklahoma is rated with Arkansas, Alabama and Kentucky as having one of the highest divorce rates in the United States. Currently there are 13 divorces for every 1,000 state residents.
“Oklahoma has one of the highest divorce rates in the country, and it’s one of the easiest places to get a divorce,” Hulbert said. “I looked at other states to see what the divorce rates were and see if they had waiting periods.”
Hulbert’s research indicates there are several states which have a longer waiting period for divorce than Oklahoma. Although there does not necessarily seem to be a correlation. For example, in Arkansas there is a pre-petition waiting period and post-petition waiting period that exceeds Oklahoma requirements, but the divorce rates in both states are comparable. Critics of increasing the waiting time in Oklahoma have pointed to Arkansas as an example of a state with more restrictive requirements which does not seem to deter divorce in the state.
Critics also note that although easing the restrictions on divorce did in fact increase the rates of divorce throughout the United States, the rates of suicide and domestic violence, specifically against women, fell at the same time (evidence cited from a study by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers). The implication from critics is that if you make it more difficult to get a divorce, other risks to women may also increase, especially when women are facing a financial crisis or other economic stressors.
Proponents of the bill, however, note that an increased waiting period could lower the divorce rate which helps strengthen families and allows many spouses time to reconcile. The financial benefits of strong marriages are especially heightened for women and children.
House Bill 2398 offers waivers for increased waiting period
House Bill 2398 would add two exceptions to the longer waiting period. The waiting period would not change if there was abandonment, extreme cruelty, or habitual drunkenness. It would also provide waivers if one spouse was convicted of child abuse or if adultery was involved.
Hulbert and other state officials, including Muskogee County District Judge Mike Norman, believe the longer waiting period could benefit minor children. According to the judge, divorce can have a devastating impact on minor children and deciding their fate remains the most difficult part of a judge’s job.
Norman was less supportive of another bill which was presented by Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy. Robert’s bill would have eliminated incompatibility as grounds for divorce. According to the judge, the goal of reducing divorce is a noble one, but increasing the costs of divorce and tying up cases in court is not necessarily good for the courts or for families.