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Softened divorce bill headed for approval

A bill being pushed by social conservatives to extend the waiting period for couples who want to untie the knot is headed for approval.

Originally intended to extend the divorce process by six months, S1199 was amended March 29 to delay proceedings only in certain cases.

The bill survived a flurry of challenges by Democratic lawmakers – all of which were shot down by Republicans. It now is headed to the Senate floor for a vote.

The amended bill now says one spouse can ask for a stay of a divorce being heard for up to four months, unless the other party establishes “good cause” to proceed without delay.

The current waiting period is 60 days. If a stay is granted, it would add 120 days to proceedings, effectively making it a six-month waiting period.

Democrats wanted “good cause” defined in statute and offered a series of amendments that cited situations that would qualify as one.

The amendments were rejected.

Sen. Rebecca Rios, a Democrat from Apache Junction, said the bill gives just one party to a marriage the ability to prolong a divorce proceeding.

“I think that if we are going to put in a ‘good cause’ exception that we need to define what is a good cause and get a little specific,” said Rios, who offered two amendments, one of which would establish evidence of incest as an exception.

Other Democrats offered multiple scenarios, such as domestic abuse, adultery, alcohol or drug abuse or even renouncement of the couple’s religion as good cause exceptions.

Supporters of the bill say it is needed to strengthen the institution of marriage, and that lengthening the divorce waiting period allows couples more time to reconcile.

Sen. Linda Gray, the bill’s author, said the courts can decide what constitutes a good cause for a divorce without delay.

“We can’t possibly list every reason and that is why we have left it up to the courts,” she said.

An identical House measure has also received approval at the committee level.

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(Photo by Luige del Puerto/Arizona Capitol Times)

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