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'Radical reform' to state law would allow couples to divorce outside court, if approved

By Martha Neil 

Two Minnesota lawmakers have drafted legislation that would offer a new alternative to traditional divorce to those who want it.

The Cooperative Private Divorce proposal, which family therapists helped them write, would offer couples a chance to essentially create their own divorce terms, outside the family court system, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

However, the idea is already drawing fire from some matrimonial law practitioners, who say the problem with traditional divorces is created by warring spouses, not the court system.

Attorney Michael Boulette questions whether the idea is constitutional, given the power accorded to state courts to hear divorce cases in Minnesota’s constitution. Plus, if the parties are in accord, getting a divorce is nearly as easy as getting a driver’s license, he tells the newspaper.

Attorney Mike Dittberner said it is already possible for couples to decide together on what they want, with minimal lawyer involvement, under the current system. He anticipates that those allowed to end their marriages outside the court system, if the bill were to pass, could make mistakes that would be costly and time-consuming to try to resolve years later.

“It’s going to place courts in positions of trying to fix all these problems in the future,” he said, “and you’ll see people being forced to hire attorneys to clean up this mess that was created by a sloppy process.”

William Doherty, a therapist and a family social sciences professor at the University of Minnesota, helped draft the bill, which he describes as “radical reform.” He says any court divorce proceeding, by its nature, becomes adversarial, taking control away from the parties.

“When we put divorce in the court, it’s like when you criminalize marijuana; it’s in the criminal justice system,” he told the Star Tribune. “Once we say that divorce takes a court order signed by a judge, we are now in a system where experts in adversarial work hold sway.”

Background Photo Credit: Kasia Broussalian © 2015