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U.S. News Archive
January 29 - January 31, 2002

 

 

 
This page contains news for the period January 29, 2002 through January 31, 2002.  

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Thursday, January 31, 2002

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Iowa bill would make it more difficult for couples to divorce

A story published today by the Des Moines Register reports that Iowa couples could choose to set their marriage vows in stronger bond under a proposal that moved forward in the state Legislature Wednesday.

The Senate Human Resources Committee voted 7-5 in favor of a "marriage covenant" bill. The plan would let couples sign special marriage contracts that would make it more difficult for them to get divorced if their relationships soured.

Sen. Ken Veenstra, a Republican from Orange City, said marriage is the foundation of society. "If we can do just one little piece to enhance it, why not?" he asked.

Under the plan, people who choose "covenant marriages" would get premarital counseling and would face several hurdles before they could get divorced. They would have to get counseling, and they would have to show cause, such as adultery, abandonment or sexual abuse, to have their marriages dissolved.

Opponents failed to pass several amendments, including one that would have allowed a husband and wife who both want a divorce to get one without having to jump through the contract's hoops.

Sen. Merlin Bartz, a Republican from Grafton, opposed the amendment, saying it would "eviscerate" the bill. Engaged couples wouldn't take the contract as seriously if they knew they could get out of it so easily, he said. "It's the ultimate escape hatch," Bartz said.

The committee passed a similar bill last spring, but the measure wasn't brought up for debate on the Senate floor. Sponsor Neal Schuerer, a Republican from Amana, said he was optimistic the proposal would be debated in both legislative houses this year.

Iowan state Senator Johnie Hammond, however, was not convinced. The Ames Democrat said Iowans already are free to choose many forms of marriages. "Those are not the business of the state," she said. "Those are the business of you and your church or synagogue or mosque."

But Sen. John Redwine, a Republican from Sioux City, pointed out that Hammond was married under old laws that had many of the same provisions as Schuerer's proposal.

"You were fortunate to have this," said Redwine, who is running for the GOP nomination in the 5th Congressional District in western Iowa. "Many of us aren't that fortunate."

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

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Kansas lawmaker wants to limit no-fault divorce


A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Kansas Senator Bob Lyon, R-Winchester, is promoting Senate bill 173 which would make it more difficult in many cases to leave a marriage, especially if there were children. The Senate Judiciary Committee considered the bill Tuesday but took no action.

"The existing statute permits one spouse to unilaterally walk away from a fundamental human commitment," Lyon told the committee. "It has inadvertently subverted the idea of marital permanence."

Like most states, Kansas has what is commonly known as no-fault divorce, a concept that spread some three decades ago and allowed couples to end a marriage without one spouse having to allege wrongdoing by the other.

Kansas law now provides three general grounds for divorce: incompatibility, failure to perform a material marital duty, or mental illness or mental incapacity. There is no requirement that spouses agree to the divorce.

Under Senator Lyon's proposal, a couple with no children still could get what amounts to a no-fault divorce if both were in agreement.

But if there were children, or if one spouse objected to the divorce, then the spouse seeking to end the marriage would have to allege one of nine specific grounds -- as was the case before no-fault divorce was adopted.

Senator Lyon said his bill "would provide greater protection to the children of divorce by restricting the ability of one spouse to walk away from their parental responsibility."

"The presence of parental conflict, not the divorce itself, is the cause of serious harm to children," said Linda Elrod, a Washburn University School of Law professor."Reinstating fault divorce may keep highly conflicted couples together, which will increase the harm to children."

She also said the bill could make it more difficult and expensive for victims of domestic violence to get out a marriage because of the need to prove fault, such as extreme cruelty.

"Finding who is at fault can be difficult and expensive. It also foments further conflict and is prone to mistakes," Elrod said.

 

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When the walk in the marriage isle ends in the doors of divorce


A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that in 2000 alone, the Census Bureau said nearly 2 million 20- to 29-year-olds checked the "divorced" box. And while that number has held fairly steady over the past few years, the percentage of divorced 20-somethings has inched up to more than 5 percent in 2000 from 4.5 percent in 1980 and 3.2 percent in 1960.

Pamela Paul, an editor at New York-based American Demographics magazine, knows all about starter marriages. When she was 28, Paul's own marriage ended just three weeks shy of its first anniversary. But she didn't stop there. She documented the trend in her first book, titled "The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony", which appears in bookstores this month.

Paul first heard the term "starter marriage" at a cocktail party from a fellow young divorced woman. Initially, she bristled at the phrase, but it got her thinking about its broader implications. She soon began researching the trend, eventually interviewing more than 60 starter marriage survivors, most of whom married and divorced in their mid-20s.

According to Marian Salzman, who studies cultural trends for Euro RSCG Worldwide, an advertising agency network based in New York, the nation has been moving toward younger marriages since 1998, when graduating college seniors began expressing a notably increased desire to marry immediately.

"I think you have a lot of kids who have come of age who didn't grow up with intact families who really want to be part of this intact family thing," said Salzman, who serves as Euro RSCG's worldwide director of strategic planning.

And yet, those hoping to marry soon aren't necessarily expecting bliss. "There is much less sense that marriage is going to be satisfying than that marriage is something they need to do. You ask people what they value and they value family time, but not necessarily marriage," Salzman said.

Paul said, too, that her research showed young adults valuing marriage as a sign of a person's success, even more so than jobs, friends and wealth. For many, she said, "it's the No. 1 symbol of where I'm going with my life." Which often sets them up for failure.

Said Paul, "People have a whole number of expectations of what they're going to get out of marriage, what marriage will make them, and their spouse, how marriage will change their relationship, what goodies marriage will bring them."

According to University of Chicago sociology professor Linda J. Waite, experts have come up with several reasons young marriages often fail, "but part of it is that people that age are not fully formed. So it does happen that the person you're married to changes, or you change in ways that the other person didn't expect, and you both don't fit anymore."

Whatever the reason, Paul said starter marriages tend to follow one of two paths, the more common of which is the "meteor trajectory: taking off quickly, rushing into marriage and fizzling out fast. The second route is the slow, thoughtless plod: long-term dating, often between college sweethearts likely living together after graduation." For this crowd, marriage comes almost by default.

As for those who end up divorcing, Salzman said the attitude is one of "I'm going to do so much better the next time ... I'm not going to make the same mistake twice."

And yet, according to Waite--whose book, "The Case for Marriage," was published in 2000--some people do make the same mistake twice. "Here's where I think--and this is my personal view--that we talk about things the wrong way. We talk about making the wrong choice, having bad luck, about having married the wrong woman," she said. "But that really doesn't allow for any role for what you did, besides choosing."

Young divorcees who remarry--and Waite said young divorcees typically do just fine in the remarriage market, partly because they come with little extra baggage--need to consider boning up on their marriage skills, such as attending to another's emotional needs or managing anger.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

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Program to teach divorced parents focus on their children

A story published today by the Herald reports that a four week program called Parent and Child Transitions (PACT), which teaches divorced parents to cope with custody battles and divorce issues is helping parents to be more attentive to their children.

PACT is an educational support program, not a therapy program, offered by Keystone Substance Abuse Services.

Keystone runs the program because children of divorced parents often go through a lot of emotional pain and are at risk for substance abuse, said Donna Wiley, coordinator of PACT.

"If we can educate parents, they can go home and help their children to make an adjustment too," Wylie said.

Group members, referred by family court judges and volunteers, meet for two hours a week for four weeks at a designated meeting place to discuss parental issues.

Many schools offer programs to help children cope with divorce, but parents also need to recognize how important they are in making the adjustment, said Marguerite Brown-Canty, a social worker who facilitates the class.

"Parents get caught up in the process of divorce: talking to attorneys, dealing with a judge. They don't typically think about the effect on children," she said.

The program is not just for divorcing husbands and wives. Grandparents granted custody, or people who aren't married but have children together, also take the class. Sometimes parents bring new husbands or wives for support. But divorced parents are not allowed to be in the same class.

Program participants tend to rely on one another for job references, attorney contacts, and other advice.

PACT was developed through the collaboration of two family court judges and the executive director of Circle Park Behavioral Health Services in Florence, South Carolina.

 

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Meeting ends meet: Being a single parent in Montana

A story published today by the Missoulian reports that a new study by a University of Washington social work professor reports that the real costs of staying alive without help in Montana are such a long leap from life on the welfare grid - and from the federal definition of "poverty" - that many people will fall short.

The research, compiled in "The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Montana" and authored by Diana Pearce, finds that a single parent with two children, one preschool-age and one school-age, must earn $12.42 an hour in Rosebud County and $17.50 an hour in Bozeman to provide for her family.

Compared to 15 larger cities around the country, Billings ranks among the lowest self-sufficiency standard. A single adult can meet basic needs earning $7.10 an hour; in San Francisco, the same adult must earn $11.33.

To be self-sufficient in Missoula, a single adult must earn at least $7.05 an hour. But an adult with an infant and a preschool child must earn $16.15, and an adult with an infant, a preschool child and a school-age child must earn $20.57 an hour.

"Even though the costs are lower in this state, the wages are so low," Pearce said in an interview Monday.

In some areas of Montana, such as Beaverhead County and Great Falls, single adults can get by on $6 and some cents an hour.

"But many people are earning less than that," Pearce said, "and supporting children."

The research, a year and a half in the works, will be released Tuesday at a press conference at the state Capitol in Helena. That will include release to government and agency officials.

Kate Kahan, director of the Missoula-based poverty rights advocacy group Working for Equality and Economic Liberation, the lead agency in commissioning the study and Pearce will be joined at the press conference by Joan Kuriansky, executive director of Wider Opportunities for Women, a Washington, D.C.-based national women's employment organization that works for independence and equality of opportunity for women and girls and led the study with WEEL. Also speaking at the conference will be Judy Smith of the Missoula-based Women's Opportunity and Resource Development and Frank Kromkowski of the Montana Community Labor Coalition and Montana Workers' Rights Board.

WOW plans to use data on self-sufficiency standards in its lobbying to shape the course of the reauthorization of national welfare reform law, which must be completed by Congress by the end of September.

 

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