Michigan Legislation/PA/Wave of State Initiatives/Divorce Laws-4/04

Smart Marriages ® cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Thu May 6 11:17:55 EDT 2004


subject: Michigan Legislation/Wave of State Initiatives/Divorce Laws-4/04

from: Smart Marriages®


- REVAMPING MICHIGAN MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE LAWS
- PENNSYLVANIA HEALTHY MARRIAGE SUMMIT
- A WAVE OF INITIATIVES TO PROMOTE MARRIAGE
- COURT HELPS CHILDREN OF DIVORCE

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- REVAMPING MICHIGAN MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE LAWS
WILX - Lansing
Sr. Capitol Correspondent Tim Skubick
May 4, 2004 

A proposal to revamp the state's marriage and divorce laws is moving toward
a vote in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Couples who want to get married could take a marriage course, and those who
want a divorce would be forced to take a divorce course before dissolving
their union. That's the main thrust of a marriage reform package set for a
house vote on Thursday.

The state would help pay for engaged couples to take the course, and if they
did, they could get their license within three days. Those who refuse to
take the class would have to wait 27 days.

Governor Jennifer Granholm commented on the package for the first time day
suggesting, without seeing the final language, that it might be going "too
far" in forcing government involvement in personal lives.

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- PENNSYLVANIA HEALTHY MARRIAGE SUMMIT

July 29-30, Harrisburg
Hosted by The American Family Coalition (PA Chapter)
12 couples from across Pennsylvania will be honored with the Excellence in
Parenting Award and the "Pennsylvania Parents of Year."   Nominations for
Parents of the Year are welcome online at http://www.parentsday.org>
To register, call Councilwoman Vera White toll free 888 421 2368.

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- A WAVE OF INITIATIVES TO PROMOTE MARRIAGE
Christian Science Monitor
Gail Russell Chaddock Staff writer
May 4, 2004 

(WASHINGTON)

Call it Bush v. Murphy Brown: the rematch. After the spring of 1992, when
Vice President Dan Quayle denounced CBS TV character Murphy Brown for
bearing a child alone and calling it "just another lifestyle choice," the
vice president's moralistic tone became grist for political humorists for
years to come.

Now, a new Bush administration and GOP Congress are reengaging in the
nation's culture war, once again focusing on the institution of
marriage. But this time, they say, no one is laughing - evidence
showing the benefits of marriage to children is more compelling than
ever.

>From a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage to
new funding for programs to promote "healthy" marriage at the state
level, Washington is making an unprecedented move into one of the most
private and pivotal institutions in American life.

"In a remarkably short period of time, we have moved past the question
of whether government ought to be involved in supporting healthy
marriages to the question of how government should be involved," said
Wade Horn, assistant Secretary for children and families in the
Department of Health and Human Services, before a Senate panel last
week.

So far, many of the new moves are modest - and in their infancy. But
critics say that such programs could involve government in a
relationship where it does not belong, and produce misguided policy,
including encouraging women and children to stay in a possibly violent
household.

New federal moves are wide-ranging. Among them: eliminating barriers to
marriage - such as the permanent repeal of the so-called "marriage
penalty" in the US tax code, which the House passed last week, and a
pending rewrite of national welfare laws to provide $300 million in
incentives for programs to promote "healthy" married families.

Meanwhile, several states have also launched a spate of new
initiatives, with the most detailed legislation coming out of the
conservative South and Southwest. Since the mid-1990s, all states have
made at least one policy change to promote marriage or reduce divorce.

Forty now fund couples- and marriage-related services. And 36 have
revised their welfare eligibility rules to include two-parent
families. Nine states now offer bonuses for marriage.

"It is worth noting that there is little marriage-related policy
activity in the northeastern states, and two of the three most populous
states [California and New York] have no appreciable state marriage
initiatives," according to a new report by the Center for Law and
Social Policy in Washington.

In Senate hearings last week, lawmakers also discussed whether
Washington should make it harder for couples to end a marriage, by
challenging several states' "no-fault" divorce laws.

"Tell me the wisdom of a system where it is easier to get a marriage
license than a hunting license, or where it is easier to get out of a
marriage than a Tupperware contract," said former Gov. Frank Keating
(R) of Oklahoma before a Senate panel on "Healthy Marriage" last week.

Oklahoma is one of seven states where government action addressing the
institution of marriage is most pervasive. Others include Arizona,
Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Utah, and Virginia, according to the CLSP
study.

States are scrutinizing everything from the cost of a marriage license
to incentives (or disincentives) for marriage built into state poverty
programs. Florida has reduced marriage license fees for those who take
a premarital education course. Arizona drafted a "marriage handbook,"
and funds marriage-skills courses for low-income couples. Michigan
developed a family formation curriculum, tailored mainly at single
mothers.

There is no data to demonstrate the effectiveness of such efforts. But
supporters say the new infusion of federal money should help pilot
projects produce positive results.

"We have a lot to learn about what works," says Sheri Steisel, federal
affairs counsel at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"State lawmakers feel this is an important new direction to go in, but
want to be very clear not to stigmatize single parents and to be very
sensitive to the issue of domestic violence."

Many supporters admit that the complexity of the issue requires nuanced
legislation.

"You've got to be so careful, because there are tons of single parents
who are doing a fabulous job raising children, In many instances, they
are doing a lot better than two parents who don't love each other,"
says Michigan Rep. Doug Hart (R), a sponsor of pro-marriage initiatives.

Still, groups ranging from the National Organization of Women and the
libertarian Cato Institute question whether government belongs in the
business of advising people on relationships as personal as marriage.

"This is one of the rare circumstances when you find Cato and NOW on
the same page," says Michael Tanner, CATO director of health and
welfare studies. "If the federal government can get involved in
directing marriage, [are] there any limits to what government can get
involved in?"

Critics caution that some of the legislation could have unintended, and
dire, consequences. Course materials being developed in some states,
they say, encourage women to accept the dominance of men in marriage -
and even to stay in abusive relationships.

"Anything that makes it more difficult to get out of a marriage will
make it more difficult for battered women to get out of a marriage,"
says Donna Coker, a law professor at the University of Miami.

Women advocates also say that the GOP's new focus on marriage may
detract from the need for federal help to boost jobs and economic
security for poor families.

"For political and ideological reasons, Republicans claim that what it
takes to create a good home for children is marriage, when it's really
economic and emotional stability," says Terry O'Neill, vice president
of the National Organization of Women.

(c) Copyright 2004 The Christian Science Monitor.
Click here to email this story to a friend:
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- COURT HELPS CHILDREN OF DIVORCE
Family News in Focus
May 4, 2004
by Steve Jordahl, correspondent

> "It's pretty remarkable for a state that first gave us no-fault divorce laws
> (to say) that that same parent can't leave the state and deprive that child
> access to one of their other parents."

California Supreme Court requires kids' needs be taken into account in
deciding whether they can be moved out of state.

The California Supreme Court has ruled that the best interests of the
children ‹ not the parents ‹ must be the primary concern when considering if
a divorced parent can move to a different state with the children.

The ruling essentially cancels out the court's 1996 decision that gave
custodial parents a great deal of latitude in moving wherever they wanted,
and which became the basis for many other states' laws. The new decision,
issued last week, allows noncustodial parents greater legal input into the
process ‹ and, some analysts say, goes so far as to suggest the court's
initial ruling had been misapplied.

Glenn T. Stanton, senior analyst for marriage and sexuality at Focus on the
Family, said it's a great decision for children.

"It sounds like they're realizing it's important for kids to be close to
both parents and have interaction with both parents," he said. "It's pretty
remarkable for a state that first gave us no-fault divorce laws (to say)
that that same parent can't leave the state and deprive that child access to
one of their other parents."

Dr. Alvin Poussaint of the Judge Baker Children's Center ‹ an affiliate of
Harvard Medical School ‹ said children are the forgotten victims in divorce,
and while there is no successful divorce, the splitting parents can make a
difference. 

"I think divorce has a severe effect on children," he said, "that can be
ameliorated somewhat by the behavior of the parents."

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