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Proposed Law Could Limit Divorce Options...

As the divorce rate in Oklahoma and the rest of the country continues to rise, lawmakers are beginning to seriously consider options to curtail the trend. Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern has introduced a measure to restrict options in certain circumstances. The bill proposes eliminating the ability to obtain a divorce on grounds of incompatibility when there are minor children in the marriage, the parties have been married for at least 10 years or either party formally objects to ending the marriage.

Traditional reasons for getting divorced are for domestic violence, abandonment, infidelity and fraudulent inducement among several others. When a person wants to end a marriage, this is usually the real reason. However, most people don't actually get divorced on these grounds. The explanation for this is fairly straightforward. Although admittedly it is different in several respects, a filing for the dissolution of a marriage is still a lawsuit. This means that for the plaintiff to gain the result they seek, being granted the divorce, he or she will have the burden to prove the allegations. If the claims upon which the divorce is being sought are not proven, then it may not be granted.

This can result some perverse outcomes. Take this example: A man cheats on his wife. The wife finds out and wants to end the marriage because of the affair. If she is unable to prove the affair occurred and that she had not consented to it in some way, the divorce may not be granted. Thus, the couple has to stay married even though they probably don't want to! Because of this problem, courts many decades ago began to grant divorces on grounds of incompatibility. That way there was nothing to prove and two people who don't want to live together don't have to.

The proposed legislation would hamper this practice by adding hurdles if a couple wants to divorce on incompatibility grounds. This is a complicated and emotional issue which deserves much thought and debate. Many believe it would be a good thing for the divorce rate to drop. However, do we really want the government to tell us that we can or cannot contract to marry or end that marriage as we please? How then, can society protect children from the harmful effects of split families? What interest is most important: that of the government to keep the divorce rate down, that of the parents who are adults and in most cases should be free to make their own choices or that of the children who are the innocent victims in all of this?

While the answers to these difficult questions are elusive and complex, it is important to know the options available to you, which can vary greatly depending on your unique circumstances. If you have questions concerning a family matter, our experienced family law attorneys would be happy to assist you.

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