This bill brought to you by the party of "small government": Last week, Republican Sens. Austin Allran, Warren Daniel and Norman Sanderson co-sponsored Senate Bill 518, euphemistically called the "Healthy Marriage Act."
It would impose a two-year waiting period for couples to file for divorce. The bill also would require a husband and wife (although not together, thankfully) to complete courses on improving communication skills and conflict resolution. And if they have a child, each also must complete a four-hour course on the impact of divorce on children.
This unhealthy bill intrudes on a very personal decision. If you're a battered spouse, a parent of an abused child or married to an alcoholic or drug addict, a communications skills course is useless. It could be dangerous to wait two years to extricate yourself from a hopeless situation.
Daniel should know about these issues: He sits on the state Domestic Violence Commission. And his home turf of Burke County isn't exactly the divorce capital of North Carolina: 3.8 per 1,000 people, right on the state average. Sanderson's district includes Carteret County, which has a divorce rate of 4.2. As for Allran, he represents the happily and unhappily married couples of Alexander and Catawba counties; their divorce rates—2 and 3.4—are below the national and state average.