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- LONGER WAIT FOR DIVORCE GETS OK IN GEORGIA SENATE

Senate bill would require four- to six- month delay; parents would get

counseling.



> "People need to stop and think about what they're doing and that's all this

> bill does," Harp said.

>

> The debate over same-sex marriage last year helped bring the divorce issue to

> the forefront. Many critics of Georgia's constitutional amendment to ban

> same-sex marriage, approved overwhelmingly by voters Nov. 2, argued that gay

> marriage would not hurt the institution of marriage as much as divorce does.



In Dallas, we'll explore blueprints for state divorce and marriage

legislation in a Friday afternoon workshop followed by a Legislative forum

and discussion group at 5:45pm.



> 316 - Friday, June 24, Dallas Smart Marriages Conference

> Talking with State Legislators and Officials about Marriage

> Sheri Steisel, MPP, Jack Tweedie, JD, PhD, Sen Bill Hardiman, John Crouch, JD

> Learn to provide compelling information on the benefits and feasibility of

> supporting marriage, what other states have accomplished and discuss new

> legislative templates.



By SONJI JACOBS

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

March 4, 2005



Ending a marriage in Georgia could take months longer under a bill gaining

momentum in the General Assembly.



The state Senate voted 36-17 on Thursday in favor of a proposal that would

extend the waiting time for an uncontested no-fault divorce from 30 days to

120 days for a childless couple and 180 days for a couple with children.



The bill also would require divorcing couples with children to take classes

on the impact of separation or divorce on kids. The classes would cost $30,

but a judge could waive the fee for low-income couples.



The measure now heads to the House. Last year, a similar measure passed the

Senate but foundered in a House committee.



Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg), the bill's sponsor, cited statistics

detailing the negative effects of divorce. He said divorced women are five

times more likely to live in poverty than married women. He also said

divorce hurts children.



"If you can keep families together, that has a positive impact on our

society," Seabaugh said. "We'll have to appropriate less money to deal with

the consequences of the divorce."



The bill would waive the waiting period for victims of domestic abuse if

they have obtained a protective order or have alleged abuse in a

confidential affidavit.



Several senators spoke passionately against the bill.



"Georgians don't want a busybody government," said Sen. Steen Miles

(D-Decatur). "This epitomizes being a busybody government, intruding into

the lives of private citizens."



Miles said that if members really care about families, they should fully

fund education and the PeachCare program for uninsured children and support

an initiative to help members of the National Guard and reservists.



"Let's just do the right thing and get out of folks' private lives," Miles

said.



Sen. Seth Harp (R-Midland), a lawyer who favors the bill, said he has

handled at least 5,000 divorces.



"People need to stop and think about what they're doing and that's all this

bill does," Harp said.



The debate over same-sex marriage last year helped bring the divorce issue

to the forefront. Many critics of Georgia's constitutional amendment to ban

same-sex marriage, approved overwhelmingly by voters Nov. 2, argued that gay

marriage would not hurt the institution of marriage as much as divorce does.



Other groups have directed considerable energy into strengthening marriage.

Conservative national organizations, such as James Dobson's Focus on the

Family, urge couples to seek divorce as a last resort. The Georgia Family

Council, one of the main group's pushing Seabaugh's bill, is among 38 state

groups associated with Focus on the Family.



Lawmakers across the nation are debating marriage. Officials in every state

have adopted at least one policy or sponsored at least one activity to

promote marriage since the mid-1990s, according to a study by the Center for

Law and Social Policy.



Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana have adopted a two-tier marriage system that

allows couples to opt for a "covenant marriage," requiring premarital

counseling and counseling before divorce. The Bush administration has

proposed a $1.5 billion spending initiative over five years to encourage

healthy marriages.



® 2005, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.



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