This past week marked the opening of Colorado's current legislative session and Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, announced that he has decided not to introduce a bill that would have required parents considering divorce with minor children to attend mandatory training on the impacts of divorce on children. The bill would also have introduced a waiting period before filing for divorce.
I applaud Lundberg's decision; legislation of this nature is problematic on many levels.
At the highest level is the clear implication that children are always better raised within a marriage than by divorced parents -- a presumption that is not surprising given that Lundberg says he got the idea for the bill from a presentation by a member of the Coalition for Divorce Reform at a legislative conference for socially conservative lawmakers. But it's not a notion I support. Marriages, just as divorces are not all equal.
I do believe that generally children do best when their parents are actively involved, but marriage is not predictor of the level of involvement and I've seen many examples of where the level of engagement has actually increased following divorce.
While Lundberg's proposed legislation would have granted exceptions for physical abuse, drug and alcohol addictions, and long term incarceration of a spouse, there are many other situations which are just as qualified: a gay spouse, multiple infidelities, pornography or gambling addictions, sexual problems for which the spouse refuses to seek treatment, financial abuse, and even several rounds of couples counseling. The list goes on.
To cover all the possibilities would be virtually impossible. The alternative then is to make provision for applying for an exemption, except that this creates the undesirable situation of someone in authority making a subjective decision.
I realize that legislation like this is intended to create a speed bump in the divorce process by getting couples to give additional consideration to their decision, but by mandating this training at the attendees' expense, it will be adding a cost to a process that many couples already find prohibitive. Additionally, a spouse -- most typically the woman -- may find herself with no access to marital assets through the actions of a financially controlling spouse. Would this legislation force a woman in these circumstances back to a troubled marriage?
On a practical level, such training courses have to be created and approved. Who determines the content and who monitors the quality, objectivity and results? Surely not a state government whose funding of education is close to the lowest in the nation?
Colorado already has mandatory parenting classes for divorcing couples and that's where there's potential for a creating real and positive impact for the betterment of children, but based on my own experience, I'm skeptical. I attended that class on my own. I'm assuming my ex attended a class but I don't know since it's not something we've ever discussed. My class started with the therapist saying, "You're all here because you absolutely have to be here so I'll try to make this as short as possible," which is hardly inspiring, motivating or enlightening.
Lundberg told the Denver Post he thought it was too easy to get out of a marriage. I think it's too easy to get into a marriage but I don't want government legislating that either.