Kansas bill would abolish no-fault divorce - KCTV5

Kansas bill would abolish no-fault divorce

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OLATHE, KS (KCTV/AP) -

It could be getting more difficult to get divorced in Kansas.

Rep. Keith Esau, an Olathe Republican, is backing a bill that would make it harder to get divorced by taking away incompatibility as grounds and making people prove their spouse's fault from a list of approved reasons, a requirement that was common throughout the United States 60 years ago.

"No-fault divorce gives people an easy out instead of working at it," Esau told The Wichita Eagle on Friday. "It would be my hope that they could work out their incompatibilities and learn to work together on things."

Esau, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, did not write the measure but said it's designed to clean up Kansas law by requiring specific reasons for divorce. He said he received constant phone calls from Kansas residents after introducing the bill Thursday.

"I'm really surprised that's getting as much controversy — or I should say as much notice — as (it is)," he said.

Sherri Yates runs a divorce care workshop at Indian Creek Community Church.  She helps people through the painful process she knows firsthand.

"For me, I lost my whole identity, and most people do," she said.

So Yates is interested in the idea of taking away simple "incompatibility" as grounds for a divorce.

"That would have been nice to be able to do that, because, I wasn't the one that filed. I didn't really want it to end, and it would have helped me," she said.

On the other end, divorce attorney Chris Barnds sees the messiest parts of the process, and he says assigning fault in every case would only make it worse.

"You're going to increase the emotional stress on the parties, as well as the financial stress," Barnds said.

Right now, Barnds says the vast majority of divorces fall under incompatibility - it makes the process faster and cleaner, especially when there are children involved.

However, Barnds isn't sure lawmakers should be deciding when a divorce is allowed.

"I wish it was harder, but then again, I don't want anybody on either side to be hurt," Yates said.

Yates has seen both sides through her counseling, and she is torn on which way the law should go, but she knows what her path is now.

"I don't want anybody else to go through the pain I went through alone," she said.

Barnds thinks the legislation could make divorce more expensive for taxpayers too.  If more people wound up going to trial to argue over fault, that could increase court costs.

Esau disputed the suggestion that bill was an example of government overreach. He said the state gives benefits to married couples, such as tax breaks, so couples should not enter into the institution of marriage lightly.

Moreover, he said, the state has a vested interest in supporting "strong families," and divorce undermines that.

"I think we've made divorce way too easy in this country," he said. "If we really want to respect marriage it needs to be a commitment that people work at and don't find arbitrary reasons to give up."

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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