let domestic violence victims be damned

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by WriteHers' Elena Botella

Duke alum and State Senator Austin Allran proposes a mandatory 2-year wait period before divorce, let domestic violence victims be damned

You know how us liberals are always like: “Republicans are so hypocritical, because they’re all up in arms about gay marriage, but don’t seem to care about divorce, even though the Bible is quite clear in its injunction against divorce?”

Well, apparently, there are some Republicans who are freaked out about divorce.  North Carolina State Senator Austin Allran, a Duke alum who represents western North Carolina has just proposed the beautifully named “Healthy Marriages Act,” which would require couples to fulfill a two-year wait period between stating their intention to divorce and actually divorcing, and to take courses to improve their communication skills. 

The only exceptions for are some slight tweaks for those who move in or out of the state of North Carolina.

This bill is ludicrous for any number of reasons, but is also quite literally dangerous. 

Senator Austin Allran, are you really suggesting to me that if a woman (or man) is being physically or emotionally abused by their spouse, that they need to “wait it out” for two years?   When a couple divorces, they divide up their marital assets.  Let’s say a woman walks out on her abusive husband and leaves the home they own together.  If she can’t get divorced, she may be required to continue to pay the mortgage of the house she has escaped.  She should be entitled to half of the value of the house, which she could use towards finding new housing for herself (and for her children), but if she can’t get a divorce, it’s much more likely that she will struggle to make ends meet—maybe even ending up on the streets. 

Here are some reasons why a divorce could be important if either partner is abusive, unstable, or doesn't have the best interests of his/her partner in mind:

-         To be able to start custody proceedings

-         So that the spouse won’t be able to make health care decisions on the other’s behalf if one is incapacitated

-         To begin qualifying for alimony

I’m definitely not arguing that we should keep Senator Allran’s law and just make exceptions for victims of abuse.  Instead, by thinking about those who would be most adversely effected by the “Healthy Marriage Act,” we are better able to see the myopia of a North Carolina General Assembly that seems to have no regard for how its policies will impact the worst-off in our state. In the words of Dr. Willie Jennings from the Duke Divinity School, we must be asking our legislators: “Will you try to see the effects of your proposals on those already in need?”

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