Social conservatives say Arizona should stand up for marriage by making it take longer to untie the knot.
A Senate committee on Feb. 17 approved a bill to triple to 180 days the state’s current 60-day period that courts must wait before considering a divorce request.
A House committee last week approved an identical bill, so the Senate panel’s action sets the stage for quick passage by the full Legislature.
Supporters of the bill told the Senate panel the state should try to strengthen the institution of marriage and that lengthening the divorce waiting period would ensure that couples have time to try to reconcile.
Supporters include the Center for Arizona Policy, a Phoenix-based advocacy group for Christian conservatives, and the Rev. Leo Godzich, who runs a Phoenix-based marriage ministry.
Many divorces are impulsive reactions to infidelity or other stresses that can be healed over time, Godzich said.
“Even just a few additional months will stem the tide of divorce for many families.”
Godzich also suggested that extending the waiting period could provide savings for the state by decreasing use of safety net social programs.
A Scottsdale psychologist objected to a longer waiting period, saying it could impose dangerous stresses on couples who have already firmly decided to get divorced.
“Domestic violence victims need to get divorced,” said David Weinstock.
And stringing out a divorce means more uncertainty for children of divorcing parents, he said. “Essentially what this is doing is extending that trauma.”
Several senators who voted for the bill cited their own divorces, with one explaining that she and her husband divorced but then remarried for the sake of their children.
“My concern in all of this is the children,” Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen of Snowflake said of divorce in general.
“They pay a terrible price, and it doesn’t end when the divorce is final,” Allen said, explaining that own parents were divorced while she was a child.
The bill also would broaden Arizona’s current requirement that courts provide couples with information on divorce impacts on children. The bill would add education on divorce impacts on adults, including financial and emotional effects.
Responding to concerns about domestic violence victims, the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Linda Gray of Glendale, said she will prepare an amendment to protect those victims.
The divorce bill is among a wide array of legislation being championed this year by social conservatives in the Arizona Legislature.
Other bills include measures to give priority to married couples for state-arranged adoptions, strengthen reporting requirements on abortions and set parental rights in education and health care.