Proposed legislation would mandate ‘reconciliation’ period for couples

Here in Texas, a divorce can be finalized after at least 60 days have passed since the divorce petition was originally filed with the court. However, if the spouses are unable to agree on important issues (i.e., child custody, child support, spousal maintenance or property division) and must rely on the court system, the divorce process can take much longer – perhaps months or even years.

Interestingly, a group of family experts has recently drafted a model legislation package designed to potentially prolong the divorce process even further in the name of reconciliation.

Specifically, the group of three family experts – including a family social science professor, a retired justice with the Georgia Supreme Court and a board member of the Institute for American Values (IAV) – drafted the “Second Chances Act.”

The legislation, which has not been adopted in any state, is designed to give those couples who are unsure about divorce, open to reconciliation or ending their marriage for “soft reasons” (i.e., unable to communicate, growing distant, etc.) a chance to stay together.

Equally important, say the authors, is that the Second Chances Act is designed to protect children who often fare worse in so-called “soft divorces” since their entire world is suddenly turned upside down.

“We are suggesting some modest reforms because we believe that there are preventable divorces, and that children are most harmed by those divorces that are preventable,” said Professor William J. Doherty of the University of Minnesota.

The authors have made it clear that the Second Chances Act is not meant to supplant no-fault divorce or make the divorce process harder, rather it is meant to give people pause before terminating their marriage.

Specifically, the proposed legislation calls for the following:

  • Mandating that all parents seeking to end their marriage attend divorce-ed. classes – which include a session on reconciliation – before they can file for divorce
  • Establishing a 12-month “cooling off” period before the divorce is finalized and creating a mechanism through which a spouse could send the an “early notification and divorce prevention letter” indicating that a divorce is likely unless certain issues can be resolved
  • Setting up “centers of excellence” at universities or non-profits to help at-risk couples

The authors of the Second Chances Act noted that these requirements could certainly be waived under certain special conditions such as spousal abuse, adultery or addiction.

What are your thoughts on the Second Chances Act? Do you think it’s an idea that the states should consider?

To learn more about divorce, child custody or other important family law issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Washington Times, “Divorce-prevention plan advises time, talk” Oct. 23, 2011