Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Texas Covenant Marriages and Crisis Marriage Education Courses- Two Stinkbomb Family Law Bills from Austin

There is bad air coming from Austin in the form of two stink bomb family law bills.

HB 180 is before the Texas legislature to create something called a "covenant marriage". Parties who enter into this special uber-marriage can not file for a divorce unless they first go to counseling.

Sounds innocuous enough, but here is the kicker: either the counselor or one spouse could forever keep the other spouse from EVER filing for a divorce. All they have to say is that the marriage is "salvageable" (whatever that means). This is simple blackmail. To say nothing of the increased costs of getting a divorce this counseling would create, think of the nightmare scenario of an abusive spouse having complete veto power over an abuse victim's ability to even file for divorce simply by saying he thinks the marriage is "salvageable". Sure, the counselor could give permission to file for divorce, but under this bill, the counseling is without any time limit, and as long as they are getting paid, why would a counselor end steady work?

And what kind of person would ever voluntarily enter into a "coventant marriage" with such negative consequences? The same type who enter into garden variety bad marriages everyday - those who thought it was a good idea at the time.

Another lousy bill up for consideration is HB 2684 which would require parties to wait two years (TWO YEARS!) after filing before they can finalize a divorce. Under this bill, there would only be three ways to avoid being committed to this bleak divorce limbo/hell. One would be to attend a ten hour "crisis marriage education course". The cost of such a course could easily be in the thousands and would likely not be available in all counties.

Another would be to file divorce "for cause" such as adultery. What will happen as a result? We will be taking a step backwards into the bad old days before no-fault divorce when people lied in court about fake cruelty or adultery just so they can get a divorce. Naturally the other party will have to hire a lawyer to protect themselves and mitigate the possibility that these lies will result in a judge awarding more property to the other, or perhaps taking their children away. The net result of the bill is not only that the pain and cost of divorce will be increased, but also that one or both parties are unfairly going to get their reputation dragged through the mud on public record or even possibly face criminal charges because of these "necessary lies". In addition, it will be harder for victims of domestic violence to get out of bad marriages.

The final way would be if one party obtained a protective order. Already there are some unscrupulous parties who will file false protective orders to gain an advantage in a divorce. No doubt you will see a ten-fold increase of false statements of domestic abuse to avoid the bureaucratic red tape put up if this bill passes. Not only would this be devastating to innocent parties falsely accused, but such "cry wolf" tactics could desensitize family law judges to the point where they might turn down protective orders when they are really justified.

For a good article by The Texas Observer on HB 180, click HERE.

These bills represent wrong-brained thinking about the source of the problem of increased divorce in this country and an artless solution that totally misses the mark. The bill may go to vote this week or next. All readers are encourage to call their representative in the Texas Legislature and tell them to vote against this bad bill before it becomes bad law.