Time to Listen to Mom

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   We’ve all heard it from our moms: “Just because someone else is doing something doesn’t make it good or right.”  And of course, the classic, “If everyone were jumping off a cliff, would you just follow them?” From time to time, legislators need to listen to mom.

   Forty-four states don’t require any waiting period before a person who is divorced can remarry. Some state legislators are using that as a main reason for introducing legislation that would eliminate Wisconsin’s six-month waiting period before remarriage after divorce.

   Predicated on the idea that Wisconsin understands the importance of marriage and its valuable contributions to our state’s present and certainly future well-being, we believe this waiting period is prudent and should not be changed.

   Even divorces without much acrimony and contention — and these are usually ones without children — take emotional and often financial and even health tolls on the individuals involved.  More complex divorces result in commensurately more stress.

   Marriage experts indicate the reason for a waiting period is to make sure the divorce is truly what the couple wants, to give them time after all the emotional and other upheavals of finalizing the divorce, to reflect on what they have done, recover a bit in all ways, work on the new relationship, etc. before they leap into marriage again.[1]

   Marriage and divorce aren’t like any other kind of relationship or dissolution, especially when children are involved. Much needs to be considered after a divorce before a remarriage.

   Marriage counselors and therapists we have consulted consistently indicate, that if anything, the waiting period should be longer.

Statistics show remarriages are considerably more likely to end in divorce than first marriages.[2] A waiting period of significant duration affords opportunity for careful deliberation, clearer thinking, more talking, more discovery, more preparation especially for children who would be involved, intensive premarital counseling and more. The goal is to do everything possible to have a successful next marriage; building in some time helps increase the likelihood of that happening.

   Marriage today, sadly, has become much more about adult desires and their perceived “happiness” than what is truly best for children. Too often remarriages especially illustrate this as just-divorced parents move rapidly into another marriage because that is what they, as adults, want —  without carefully considering the impact on children and without sufficient time for the children to adjust.

   The trauma divorce brings to children is well-documented. Imagine how that trauma is multiplied if within days or even weeks of the divorce being final, the children are thrust into a situation where one or both parents is remarried. A 6-month waiting period helps mitigate this trauma. With a waiting period, the state is protecting the interests of the institution and in particular of children. The waiting period appropriately checks adult desires for a reasonable amount of time.

   Even in marriages where children are not involved, waiting to remarry is wise.  Coming out of a failed marriage and rushing into another marriage, even if the individuals have been separated for some time, is not a good beginning and actually sets the couple up for problems and as a result increases the likelihood of divorce.

   Divorce is expensive — not just for the individuals directly involved but for states. A number of years ago some researchers estimated each divorce in any given state costs taxpayers about $30,000.  Wisconsin has had roughly 15,000 divorces annually for the last 4 years.[3] Using those numbers, that means the state’s taxpayers bear about $450 million per year as the public cost of divorce. It is definitely in any state’s best interest to mitigate the likelihood of divorce in any marriage. Wisconsin is doing that by requiring a reasonable waiting period before remarriage after a divorce, understanding remarriages are more susceptible to divorce than are first marriages.

   In this instance, The Badger State would be well served to listen to mom and not jump off the cliff that has lured  others.

[1] http://healthresearchfunding.org/55-surprising-divorce-statistics-second-marriages/;  http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/blended-family/remarriage/dating-and-preparing-for-marriage/10-things-to-know-before-you-remarry; https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-joint-adventures-well-educated-couples/201210/how-long-wait-getting-married; http://divorceinfo.com/remarriage.htm
[2] http://healthresearchfunding.org/55-surprising-divorce-statistics-second-marriages/
[3] https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p45359-15.pdf

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