In 1994 Utah was the first state that required couples complete what’s now a two-hour, $55 seminar before a court would finalize a divorce. One of the first lessons taught is: Keep the kids out of it.
Lawmaker and sponsor of the bill, Republican Rep. Jim Nielson, is now proposing that couples take at least part of the course earlier, in an attempt to reduce the divorce rate amongst couples with children.
Make a Painful Divorce Process Worse
Despite objections from those who say it will only worsen an already grueling and painful process, the measure is likely to pass. “They’re going through a terrible time,” said Dianne Passey, a divorce class teacher in Salt Lake City.
Commonplace Legislation and Divorce
48 states offer such classes in some form, according to a 2008 study by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. And 27 states require in statute that parents take the class. Others leave the decision up to counties, other districts, or individual judges.
The classes cover a wide range of topics relating to divorce – ranging from how to leave the kids out of arguments to how much legal fees can cost. But it’s hard to tell just how invested attendees are in the lessons.
At one recent class, some wore sweatpants and baseball caps, while others wore pleated slacks and blouses. Some showed up with watery eyes while some participants played solitaire on their smartphones.
Maybe Reconciliation is Possible Instead of Divorce
The first hour covers legal paths for divorce, but also makes sure to reflect on the fact that couples can still choose to reconcile – which is what Nielson feels should be considered before even going down the divorce route.
“If you’ve gotten so far down the road that you feel like you’re pretty much done, you’re not going to rethink something that you’ve spent that long moving toward,” said Nielson.
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Law Offices of Korol and Velen, Certified Family Law Specialists