No Thanks, Judge, We’ll Divorce Ourselves
According to Martha Neil in an article on abajournal.com, two Minnesota lawmakers are proposing legislation that would allow couples to get divorced in that state without ever seeking assistance from or even going to court.
But, Abby Simmons of the Minnesota Star Tribune writes “…family law attorneys argue that the legislation is impractical — and unconstitutional.”
The “Cooperative Private Divorce” legislation would allow couples to form divorce agreements without filing with the court or needing a judge’s signoff. Advocates of this legislation do not have an estimate on how much this new program would cost taxpayers, but they estimate that the legislation would cut down the caseload of the family court by at least half. They also argue that this option allows people to proceed with their divorce in a non-adversarial fashion.
Ms. Simmons continues, “Under the proposal, couples seeking a divorce would begin an online orientation and submit their ‘Intent to Divorce’ to a state agency like the Bureau of Mediation Services, where the records would be kept private. After 90 days, they would submit a “Declaration of Divorce” containing their agreements. There would be no third-party review or judicial approval. However, if there was a later challenge to a divorce agreement, it would be brought forward in court.”
Opponents to the legislation, such as attorney Mike Dittberner, hypothesize that “…agreements created without proper input from professionals or a judge’s approval are likely to create a quagmire down the road.”
Other opponents go one step further. Michael Boulette, a family law attorney, said the law is “unconstitutional on its face, given that the U.S. Constitution mandates that district courts have jurisdiction over family law matters, and that the Legislature cannot take that authority away.”
Boulette also said that “if the splitting spouses are amicable, getting a divorce in district court can be less of a hassle than renewing a driver’s license.”
What do you think? Should divorcing couples be allowed to divorce themselves with no input from the court? Will this lead to problems for the divorced couple down the road?
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