Mandatory Divorce Counseling
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy reports that although the divorce rate in the United States has backed off a bit due to the weak economy nearly 40% of all new marriages are still at risk of ending in divorce. The situation has motivated many state and local officials to step up community efforts to prevent divorce in the first place.
Some of the solutions offered have been rules to make premarital counseling mandatory and extending the waiting period for a marriage license. Today there are ten states that have mandated premarital counseling in an attempt to bring down their divorce rates: Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon and Washington.
Some experts say that it would be more effective to require pre-divorce counseling instead of pre-marital counseling, because counseling is usually not needed at the beginning of a marriage when two people are in love. Pre-divorce counseling would seem more effective at keeping couples together when long-term marriages are in trouble.
Even if pre-divorce counseling is not mandatory in the most of the U.S. yet, the idea has taken root in Singapore where the government is proposing an amendment that would make several changes to the existing Women’s Act laws in that country. Under the new amendment any married couple desiring a divorce in Singapore that have kids under the age of 21 will be required to attend mandatory counseling and mediation sessions.
The counseling and mediation is designed create agreement on what is in the best interests of dependent children in a divorce setting. Other parts of the amendment address the rights of Singaporeans who marry foreigners and subsequently obtain a divorce in another country. The Bill will also give the courts new powers to enforce the proposed changes including making the uncooperative party in a break-up bear their share of the costs.
In a novel approach to a public referendum on the issues, the Singapore government released a full draft of the amendments and invited the public to give their input on the proposed changes on a state website. Singaporeans were given three weeks ending September 26th to comment on the proposal and changes.