Breaking up could get harder to do

February 19, 2009 4:28:03 PM PST
To have and to hold -- a state lawmaker's idea would make couples looking for a divorce hold on a little longer. It's a controversial idea that would force couples to at least give counseling a try.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Rebecca Guerrero spent the morning at the Harris County Family Law Center. She's getting a divorce and bristles at the thought of undergoing a 10 hour course.

"It's just not good," she said. "I mean, you're going to be fighting more."

While most marriages are entered into with the best of intentions, those resulting in divorce would first require 10 hours of a crisis marriage education course. That's according to a piece of proposed legislation by Texas State Representative Warren Chisum of Pampa. It sounds good to some, but it's not realistic to divorcee Angela Beaudoin.

"I don't think that the state needs to be in the business of making people go to counseling, because if they want it to work, they'll choose that for themselves," Beaudoin said. "I did it, and it still didn't work."

The majority of patients seen by therapist Diane Pulsipher involves help with relationships. Pulsipher says lawmakers should not try to legislate marriages.

"Marriages are all different. They're all very, very personal. The roles people take in marriages are all very, very different. When a law is made it tries to generalize," she said.

The proposed legislation does lift the provision for counseling in documented cases of abuse. However, victims' rights advocates say it will add another hurdle for victims.

"What it does is it builds in more time that the person has to spend with the perpetrator, which really does increase the danger for the children, which is what this bill is originally written for, is to protect the children," explained Kelly Young of the Houston Area Women's Center.

We found a recently married man who likes the idea of trying to make divorce a more thoughtful process.

"You got married for one reason," said Roger Kelly. "Then, here it is you want to get a divorce. I mean, go through a counselor and try to work it out first. If you can't work it out, then go to the next step."

This is only proposed legislation at this point, but public reaction is strong. The type of divorce addressed in this bill are those involving couples with children who want a no-fault divorce. As for the counseling, that would be paid for out of pocket, according to the legislation. That can add up as couples attend 10 hours of counseling, with some therapists charging $100 or more an hour.

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