Monday, December 22, 2014

Proposed House legislation divorces state from reality


Acquiring a marriage license used to be an easy process.

Those desiring a license would complete a one-page application, present their identification, wait three days and pay the $85.50 fee ... and that’s it. If it were left up to some Kansas lawmakers, however, more might be required — like the reason for wanting to get married. Those reasons might include the usual: love, lust, amusement, peace of mind and even compatibility; but the list also might include the desire for a green card, someone with whom to split the rent, someone to put on the dependent line of the life insurance form, to gain a tax advantage, for religious reasons, desire to provide a parent for a child or children, trophy spouse to take to special events, or even to have a sugar momma/daddy.

OK. So, no one at the Kansas Legislature is suggesting this change yet.

But it’s not so far-fetched now that the House judiciary committee is considering a proposed law change that would do away with no-fault divorces or at least the ability to use “incompatibility” as a reason for divorce. The proposed bill, which was presented to the committee by state Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe, has yet to have a hearing and consequently may die a slow death because of its own incompatibility with other proposed legislation with a higher priority from lawmakers. Still, crazier things have happened in the Legislature.

Here’s the question: If the state doesn’t care why we get married, why does the government need more of a say in the reasons behind getting divorced?

Doing away with no-fault divorces would mean divorce only could happen for cause — the typical irreconcilable differences wouldn’t be enough to dissolve the union. The change would move us back to the blame game full of such fun and public explanations for splitting as leaving the toilet seat up or down, bad sexual performance, lack of personal hygiene, too much time at work or too little money.

The bill suggests replacing “incompatibility” with eight other acceptable reasons for couples to divorce. Those reasons include adultery, mental illness, failure to perform marital duty or obligation, physical or sexual abuse, abandonment of the home for one year and felony convictions, according a report in the Wichita Eagle.

No one wants to see divorce be too easy of a solution for couples, however, anyone who has experienced a divorce, no doubt, would say it isn’t an easy decision nor is it easy to overcome the emotional and financial heartaches accompanying that decision. Divorces clearly are leading the way in today’s society. In Franklin County, just four marriage applications were finalized in January, compared to 11 divorces. Still, the suggested change is government overreach.

Fighting for family values is an admirable political stance, but this proposal is incompatible with the principles it hopes to preserve and shouldn’t leave committee.

— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher

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