If passed into law, the first would introduce a ‘covenant marriage’ option. This distinct type of marriage offers couples fewer grounds for divorce and includes a focus on special counselling before the event. Currently only Arkansas, Louisiana and Arizona offer covenant marriage but only a small minority of couples have chosen the option.
The Oklahoma bill has been revised to maintain current grounds for divorce but it would insist on counselling when a couple seeking divorce cite incompatibility.
The second bill, meanwhile, would introduce mandatory classes for divorcing couples with children, outlining the possible effects on their offspring. A similar proposal was recently rejected by legislators in North Dakota.
Members of the Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee approved both bills yesterday, despite opposition from all five Democrat representatives. Having previously been approved by the state Senate, the bills will now go before the full Oklahoma Legislature , the Associated Press (AP) reports.
The state has one of the highest divorce rates in the United States. More than five marriages ended for every 1,000 residents in 2011, compared to a national average the same year of just 3.6.
Senator Rob Strandrige told the AP:
“Our divorce rate is way too high, not to be critical of anybody who’s gotten a divorce.”
Alan Hawkins is a professor in the College of Family, Home and Social Services at Brigham Young University in Utah and also teaches divorce classes similar to those proposed for Oklahoma. Speaking to the AP, he said such classes had persuaded some unhappy couples to reconsider their decision.
“Ten to 20 percent will say, ‘I’m going to reconsider this decision to divorce and I’m going to make an effort to try and repair my marriage.”