A Senate committee has endorsed three bills that backers hope will reduce Iowa’s divorce rate. One bill would get rid of Iowa’s no-fault divorce law and force couples to cite grounds — like adultery or abuse — in order to dissolve their marriage. Senator Ken Veenstra, a republican from Orange City, says easy divorce laws have contributed to the breakdown of the family. Veenstra says he has “a sincere desire to bring back the kind of structure and stability to Iowa’s marriages and families that we have lost over the past several generations.” Veenstra says the “me first” attitude of the ’60s led Iowa to join other states in creating easy, “no-fault” divorce laws. He says the current system isn’t working.Senator James Seymour, a republican from Woodbine, says toughening the divorce law makes sense to him. Seymour says it doesn’t speak well for our society that it’s more difficult to get out of an auto lease than it is to get out of our marriage vows. Senator Nancy Boettger a republican from Harlan, says Iowa’s no-fault divorce law has changed attitudes about divorce..Boettger says in trying to reduce the pain of obtaining a divorce, policymakers caused lots more divorces because people know if it isn’t working, they can get out of the marriage. Senator Jack Hatch, a democrat from Des Moines, opposed the bill, saying it’s difficult to legislate cultural changes. Hatch says having both parents in the home is the preferred family structure, but Hatch says the “Ozzie and Harriet” type of family culture just doesn’t exist anymore. He says the bills put shackles on the ankles of couples who decide ending their marriage is the best for them and their family. Senator Jack Holveck, a democrat from Des Moines, sounded a similar theme. Holveck says Veenstra is “pining for a way of life that will never return.” Senator Amanda Regan, a democrat from Mason City, says while well-intentioned, the bill was the wrong approach. Regan says forcing people to stay together does not solve the problem. She says there are other ways to go about building families. Another bill would require 12 hours of pre-marital counseling for all couples. It would also let judges halt divorce proceedings if they think the kids are harmed by the divorce. And that bill would make folks wait a year ’til their divorce is final. The current waiting period is 90 days. The third bill outlines the idea of a sort-of “prenup” agreement that couples sign before marrying in which they’d agree to get couseling to resolve marital disputes.
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