A bill that would restrict the most common reason for divorce passed committee 7-5 on Tuesday after spirited debate.
The bill, HB1277, would restrict the most common reason people get divorced. Normally called irreconcilable differences, in Oklahoma it’s under “incompatibility” legally it's known as no-fault.
Drafts show the bill would only allow a couple to be divorced on ground of incompatibility if they were married fewer than 10 years, didn't have minor children and if neither one objected to being divorced. Currently those provisions are not in place.
The bill's author, Rep. Travis Dunlap, R-Bartlesville, says his bill is aimed at keeping families together; something he says is vital for human society.
“I call it human flourishing or family flourishing or those sorts of things,” Dunlap said.
On his home page, Dunlap said he advocates for families, calling them “The family was ordained by God as the foundation for human society. Departure from God's definition of family is harmful to society.”
Oklahoma has one of the highest divorce rates in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Before it was shut down, the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative said nearly one-third of marriages in the state ended in divorce.
“This is an attempt to encourage people to really fight for the great outcomes that come from a marriage. It's worth fighting for. It's worth trying to save if it becomes difficult,” Dunalp said.
“People who are in this situation who are thinking about getting divorced or who have already made that decision, they don’t enter into it lightly,” said Norman Democrat and family law attorney Emily Virgin.
Virgin voted against the bill in committee. Opponents like Virgin say say not allowing for a no-fault divorce could put women and children in danger, especially those in abusive homes.
“The reason that we did no-fault divorce and the reason that we have that still in statute is so that these people can get out of bad situations,” Virgin said.
Dunlap said he would be open to amending the bill to include waiting periods or marriage counseling. The bill now heads to the House floor for discussion and a possible vote.