Proposed new Oklahoma Divorce Law
There have been some recent articles written about proposed legislation in Oklahoma to make it more difficult to either get married or in the alternative make it more difficult to get divorced. I think both of these are coming dangerously close to infringing on people’s constitutional right to marry. The right to marry is one of the fundamental closely held values and principles of the United States constitution and I think it’s really bad business when legislators start dabbling in that area. No one likes the fact that Oklahoma has led the nation in the last couple of decades for the highest divorce rate in the country, however the answer cannot simply be, “let’s put more roadblocks in the way of people trying to get married” or in the alternative “let’s put more roadblocks in the way of people trying to get out of bad marriages”. I just don’t see that as a solution. I think that certain, very closely scrutinized, least restrictive means for some impediments to the easy road to marriage might be in order. In other words, maybe we should force people to undergo at least an hour or two hours of counseling prior to being given a marriage license. I know that certain counties give you a discount on your marriage license if you can prove that you’ve undergone the premarital counseling. I think these are all good ideas. However there are just so many reasons marriages fall apart; money, violence, adultery, you name it. Sometimes you just cannot be prepared. What impediments are we going to start putting on people’s lives to force them to stay in loveless marriages? Is it really any better for the family? Is it really any better for the children to see their parents not enjoying each other’s company anymore, or is it putting people in dangerous positions because they can’t afford to get out.
I think divorce is already difficult enough; both the financial and physical stress of a pending divorce can be quite ominous for most folks. I don’t think that making some arbitrary waiting period is going to necessarily have an effect on our divorce rate. If anything, what we will end up doing is running people out of the state of Oklahoma to go get divorced. That’s not good for the lawyers, the judges, or the judicial system in Oklahoma. It’s not good for our residents. If we look to current Oklahoma law, when people get divorced in Oklahoma they are prohibited from remarrying except to each other for a period of six months, but as we all know there have been countless numbers of people who’ve gotten divorced in Oklahoma and gone to other states within the six months to get remarried. That’s all that we would be doing to set ourselves up to run our problems (i.e. divorce rate) into neighboring states. They would be overwhelmed and flooded with people trying to set up quick residency there to file divorces. It simply won’t solve the problem. People need to take a little more time to get to know one another and figure out whether they want to get married or not. I think a better way to manage our divorce rate in Oklahoma, if we really want to solve the problem, is for us spend a little more money on education. I think the high rate of divorce in Oklahoma is at least somewhat related to the fact that we are consistently in the lower tier of education in the United States. Because of this, you see a high correlation between a high divorce rate in Oklahoma and our underfunded, underachieving educational system. We’ve got lots of folks getting married and maybe they’re getting married for the wrong reasons, but I do not think putting impediments to people’s right to marry and right to get unmarried is the way to address the growing problem of the high divorce rate in Oklahoma.
Lawrence “Lorenzo” Goodwin
Oklahoma City Divorce Attorney
1315 N. Shartel
Oklahoma City, OK 73103