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Mar 12th, 2007

Proposed: Year-Long Cooling Off Period Before Divorce

If passed, a new law will force divorcing couples with children in Tennessee to wait up to a full year before their divorces become final. Current law only requires a waiting period of 60 to 90 days for divorces over “irreconcilable differences.”

This is an effort to reduce the number of divorces in Tennessee, which has the third highest divorce rate of any state in the country.

The Argument

“We were married for 18 years. We didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘let’s get divorced.’ This was really well thought-out,” said Allison Cavopol, who has two kids with her ex-husband. The couple had unsuccessfully gone to counseling multiple times before finally filing for a divorce. “Honestly, I think it was worse for the kids, basically them seeing us not getting along.”

“What we’re trying to say is that when there are children involved, there is more here than the individuals themselves,” said one of the law’s proponents, David Fowler, former state senator who now leads the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

Sen. Paul Stanley’s proposed law would force couples with children 15 years old or younger to wait a year before their divorces become final if the couple cites the reason for the divorce as “irreconcilable differences” – the state’s closest thing to no-fault divorce.

If their child is aged between 15 and 18 years, their divorce would not be finalized for 6 months.

“I’m not trying to stretch it out where it’s just a miserable existence … because I think that’s detrimental, as well,” said Stanley, himself a divorcee. “But I think divorce is far too convenient in our society.”

Dissent

“Very few people actually reconcile during the pendency of a divorce,” said Ray Akers, Nashville attorney. “It’s so rare, so slowing the process down is not going to slow the divorce rate down.” The new law would only increase expenses, drag out the process and breed bitterness.

“What I’ve seen is the longer you’ve got a divorce case open, the worse things get between the parties,” said Akers. Divorce isn’t like pot roast. It doesn’t get more tender as time goes on.”

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