Second Chances? If There is Doubt

A report called “Second Chances: A Proposal to Reduce Unnecessary Divorce”, which was published by the Institute for American Values, states that it is not uncommon for those who have filed for a divorce to have doubts about the divorce.

Where there is the slightest possibility of doubt or uncertainty a waiting period before divorce is in everyone’s best interest. According to the Institute, “contrary to conventional wisdom, a significant minority of persons and couples on the brink of divorce actively desire a chance for reconciliation.”  This finding amplifies a growing body of work suggesting that many of today’s divorces are unnecessary and that some may be preventable.

“Second Chances” was written  by William J. Doherty, professor in the Department of Family Social Science and director of the Citizen Professional Center at the University of Minnesota, and a marriage therapist who directs the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project and Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears (retired), who is the first woman and the youngest person to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court where she spearheaded the Commission on Children, Marriage, and Family Law and The Access to Justice Project.

According to Doherty, co-author of Second Chances, research shows that in as many as 40 percent of couples well into the divorce process, one or both of the spouses would be interested in reconciliation services and that in 10 percent of the cases, both spouses are interested but probably haven’t told each other.

“We propose that states require pre-filing education for divorcing parents. These sessions would combine parent education with a module on the option of marital reconciliation. States could simultaneously establish a waiting period for divorce of at least one year (currently in some states the waiting periods are as short as ninety days), while providing a voluntary early notification letter that spouses can use to let their spouse know their intentions without necessarily filing for divorce. The extended waiting period would help to slow down the highway that speeds couples to divorce, giving them a chance to consider and explore the reconciliation option if they wish to, or at least to go into divorce better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. We also propose to create state-level centers of excellence that would develop the capacity of professionals and communities to help couples in the brink of divorce. These centers could work through innovative means – such as by using a new approach called “discernment counseling” – and by connecting troubled couples to sources of support in their communities. States can combine these mutually reinforcing reforms into one piece of legislation that we call the Second Chances Act.”

About one million children annually experience their parents’ divorce. In most divorces involving children, research shows that the harm to children is significant and long lasting. Even a modest reduction in the U.S. divorce rate would likely benefit at least 400,000 children nationally each year.

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