Propositions No. 4 | Reducing Unnecessary Divorce

















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Propositions No. 4
July 7, 2011


"Second Chances: A Proposal to Reduce Unnecessary Divorce"

Dr. William J. Doherty and Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears (retired)

In this issue of Propositions, Dr. William J. Doherty of the University of Minnesota and Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears (retired) challenge the assumption that nothing can be done about the divorce rate in the United States. They offer a set of reforms -- The Second Chances Act -- that state legislators could adopt to help couples in crisis without making changes to the no-fault divorce system.

Their argument (which will be published later this year in a report to the nation) is based on new research suggesting that among more than a third of couples in divorce court, at least one person in the couple, and sometimes both of them, might be interested in exploring reconciliation.

In an era in which jobs and the economy are the overriding concerns, why should Americans care about the divorce rate? A solid body of social science evidence now affirms that marriage is not merely a private arrangement between two persons. It is a core social institution, one that helps to ensure the economic, social, and emotional welfare of children, women, and men. A recent study found that divorce and unwed childbearing costs taxpayers at least 112 billion dollars annually. Even a modest reduction in the U.S. divorce rate would likely benefit at least 400,000 children nationally each year and save taxpayers money.

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