More Mandatory Counseling
As divorce rates rise and marriage rates decline across the U.S., more state governments are insisting on mandatory counseling in an effort to keep a lid on the number of failed marriages and reduce the number of clogged courtrooms. The latest state to jump on the mandatory counseling bandwagon is Wyoming, where state lawmaker Rep. Ed Buchanan has introduced a bill that would require couples who want to get married, or divorced, in Wyoming to pay for three hours of counseling.
The bill also contains a provision that couples who refuse the requirement would have to wait a year to get a marriage license or a divorce decree. State law already requires divorcing couples with children to get co-parent counseling before a divorce but the new counseling requirement could be waived in cases of domestic violence or abuse for obvious reasons.
Wyoming has consistently had one of the nation’s highest divorce rates over the past decade and the proposed legislation is an attempt to decrease the rate with additional counseling. Not everyone is pleased with the plan though and some Wyoming residents have voiced concerns that the mandatory counseling is an intrusion by government on the private citizen. Others have complained that in the current weak economy, the cost of the counseling adds another expense for couples who are already strapped for cash. Some critics of the proposed bill have even suggested the law change will cause people to go the other states to get married or divorced.
When the Wyoming Legislature convenes for its 2011 session, a new Republican majority in the statehouse gives social conservatives hope that lawmakers will pass a variety of new legislation this year. However, the state’s lawmakers have many other high-profile issues to deal with like whether or not Wyoming should still be the only state that bans gay marriage, but recognizes gay marriages performed in other states. The mandatory counseling proposal will be up for a vote in the same session as the gay marriage issue and if passed could take effect later this year.