Not So Fast

Oklahoma State Capitol

A couple of close friends brought up some arguments about my recent post condemning a new requirement that forces divorcing parents to take a class that deals with the effect of divorce on children while suggesting reconciliation as an option.

My overall point is that the new law, passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin, is simply a personal intrusion and could have unintended consequences. Could the requirement intensify an already intense situation during a divorce?

One friend, who is involved in family law, made the point that many couples could benefit from the class and consequently he sees no problem with it. He deals with the reality of the issue everyday. He might agree with me on some abstract level, but he also knows that some divorcing people need to know basic information such as this: If you are ordered to pay child support, you really must pay child support. What’s wrong with that?

Many divorces go smoothly, he notes, but some turn into wars. A class designed to defuse tension or refocus it on helping children cope can he helpful, he suggests, noting such classes already exist in some counties.

My other friend, who has been a long time advocate for decreasing domestic violence here, wondered why I hadn’t mentioned in the post that Oklahoma has a high rate of violence committed against women. Just last year, for example, a report showed that Oklahoma ranked third in the nation in the number of women killed by men. Many women seek divorces to get out of abusive situations for themselves and children, she said, and anything that creates an obstacle for that to happen should be carefully considered.

The new law, however, does only apply to couples divorcing on grounds of incompatibility. But her point is well taken, and is perhaps the most crucial issue in the entire debate.

Overall, divorce is an important and serious issue in Oklahoma. I’ve written about the issue for many years, and I still contend deep-seated conservative cultural factors here prohibit people from growing up with realistic ideas about marriage. Changing that culture through education is where the answer remains.

I also believe our notions of what now constitutes a family has been broadened for the better. Same-sex marriage has been legally sanctioned in places throughout the country and this will continue despite minor setbacks along the way to equality. The advent of same-sex marriage has the potential to change how we might view our overall political structures and institutions and even our own cultural identities.