Reforming divorce to better protect marriage, children, and taxpayers is a key issue facing the Texas Legislature this session. Our current state laws allows one spouse to file for divorce on “no-fault” grounds and receive a divorce in just 60 days, even when children are involved. Simply put, Texas has some of the most lenient divorce laws in the country.
In 2010, the number of divorces in Texas was over 82,000, impacting nearly 65,000 children under the age of 18. This breakdown of families is estimated to cost the state roughly $3 billion a year. But even more devastating than the fiscal impact is the negative impact that divorce particularly has on children. Recent studies have shown divorce to have tremendous impact on children’s education, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and physical abuse, and even an astounding 5 year impact on life expectancy. It is increasingly clear that there is an enormous economic and social benefit to supporting public policy that places a high value on marriage and family success.
Three bills filed last week look to provide common sense reform to our divorce laws that would do just that:
HB 3612 by State Rep. Gary Elkins (R-Houston) and HB 2985 by State Rep. Scott Sanford (R-McKinney) and State Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) would both require a marriage education course to be completed prior to filing for divorce for those that have children in the home. The course, in particular, would educate the parents on the many potential affects divorce would have on their children.
Often courses are already required before a couple divorces, but can be taken at any time, including right before the divorce is finalized. Requiring the course to come before filing and allowing extra time for reflection and reconciliation would be important steps in protecting families. Recent studies have shown that about one-third of divorcing couples report an interest in reconciliation.
HB 3303 by State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Ft. Worth) would extend the waiting period from 60 days, one of the shortest in the nation, to 6 months for those that have children in the home. This common sense policy would better align our state law with the reality that most divorces take longer than 60 days and would also recognize that states that have longer waiting periods tend to have lower divorce rates.
We believe these bills are fundamentally important in assuring that the state of Texas truly values marriage. The family, and the marriages that our families are built on, are the most foundational social unit upon which our society is built and is dependent. Our state policy should reflect this fact.
Texas Values urges all Texans to contact their state elected officials and encourage them to stand for marriage by supporting HB 3612, HB 2985, and HB 3303.