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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

Should divorce have a mandatory waiting period?

One of Georgia’s neighboring states is considering a change to its family law process which, if passed, would significantly reduce the mandatory waiting period for couples who wish to divorce in the state. Although it seems like a simple proposal, the bill has been met with some resistance from organizations and advocates who feel that reducing the waiting period might discourage reconciliation.

Specifically, a South Carolina state representative has proposed an amendment to the state constitution, which would allow couples to divorce after 150 days of separation. Currently, the law requires couples to be separated for one year before seeking a no-fault divorce in the state.

According to the representative, he proposed the amendment after his constituents reported that the year waiting period often increased the level of conflict and discord in marriages and families. His goal, he said, was to decrease the negative impact on children.

However, critics say that the law would have the opposite effect. Oran Smith of the Palmetto Family Council, reducing the waiting period would decrease the chances of marital reconciliation. “We want to do what’s best for the children. Usually that is keeping mom and dad together,” he said. “We certainly don’t want in a blanket way to make it easier for couples who have a chance to reconcile.”

South Carolina family law attorneys disagree, with one arguing that he has had only a handful of couples reconcile out of the 2,000 he has helped through a divorce. “By the time they’re walking through the divorce lawyer’s office, there’s no turning back,” he said.

If the law passes, South Carolina would be more in sync with the family laws of other states, including Georgia, which does not require any waiting period for uncontested divorce. The only time-related requirement in Georgia is that one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months.

What do you think? Does a mandatory waiting period have any effect on the divorce rate, and on families and children?

Source: The Item, “S.C. legislator proposes shortening time for divorce,” Mar. 9, 2012