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Divorce education program debated in Alabama House, Senate

Members of Alabama’s House and Senate debated two new companion bills that would require couples seeking a divorce to attend a four-hour marriage dissolution education program. The class would be a requirement only for couples with minor children. The bill states that if one spouse attends the class then decides to proceed with the divorce, the other spouse would have 120 days within being served divorce papers to complete the program. The bill does provide a loophole, however, that would allow a judge to waive the program requirement.

If both spouses are seeking a joint petition for divorce, they would both have to complete the program before actually filing with the court. Again, this would only apply to couples who have at least one minor child. During the class, couples will be given information regarding reconciliation and the benefits of staying married. They would also learn about alternatives to traditional dissolution litigation such as collaborative divorce and mediation. The majority of the time would focus on making parents aware of their children’s needs and providing skills to help all family members adjust to the breakup.

The proposed marriage dissolution education program curriculum could be completed in person or in the internet. The cost would be no more than $100, but the fee could be waived for low-income families.

While most agree that staying married is in a child’s best interest and some legislators say they like the idea of the bill, they also believe this proposal is just one more intrusion of the government into people’s private lives.

The report does not say if spouses seeking a divorce who have a minor child living in the household who is the biological child of only one spouse would have to attend the class as well.

Source: al.com, “Alabama House to debate bill that would add requirement for parents seeking divorce,” David White, April 16, 2012