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Do divorcing couples really want a second chance?

Statistics that show nearly half of all marital unions in the United States end in divorce prompted a former state Supreme Court justice and a Midwestern social science professor to create the Second Chances Act.

The act encourages couples in New York and across the country who seek divorce to take a one-year breather to decide if a split is what they really want. During that time, especially if a couple has children, the reform measure would require spouses to take classes that would promote reconciliation. The waiting period wouldn't be imposed in marriages that involve issues such as abuse.

The Second Chances Act is apparently backed by research that its designers say refutes the assumption that all couples who file for divorce genuinely want one. The reform creators say studies in the last 10 years show that as many as two-thirds of divorces were spurred by "low conflict" issues.

The act's designers say the majority of divorces in the last decade were sought for reasons that were not deal breakers like abuse or infidelity. They argue that "low conflict" divorces are the most harmful to children.

One of the Second Chances Act authors conducted his own study among 2,500 divorcing parents. The professor found that as many as 40 percent of spouses were open to reconciliation.

Ten percent shared a desire to work it out, but in 30 percent of the cases, only one spouse was interested in reconciliation.

Under the Second Chances Act, couples would have to wait at least one year before finalizing a divorce. In some states, a waiting period of up to six months is already imposed on divorcing couples.

The act encourages couples to sign up for parental education courses before filing a divorce petition. Some states already assign parenting classes to spouses in the divorce process, although parents are not required to take them before filing for a divorce.

The proponents of the Second Chances Act think that a year-long waiting period could cool off emotionally-stressed couples long enough to have them reconsider marriage. Informal or legal separation might produce the same result. If this type of legislation passes, it could add another legal element to the process of filing divorce but could also cause delay for those who need to get out of destructive marriages.

Source: washingtonpost.com, "Delaying divorce to save marriages," William J. Doherty and Leah Ward Sears," Oct. 21, 2011

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