The National Network to End Domestic Violence recently spoke out against proposed Senate Bill 518, "The Healthy Marriages Act," which would extend the waiting period for a divorce in North Carolina to two years and require the couple to complete courses on communication skills and conflict resolution. Further, if there are children the bill proposes that the couple complete a four hour course on the impact of divorce on children. While this may seem like a good idea, the women's group mentioned above argued that the bill, filed by Sen. Austin Allran, R-Catawba, would increase the danger of abuse for women because "the most dangerous time for a battered woman is after she takes steps to leave the relationship."
North Carolina's current one year waiting period is one of the longest waiting periods in the nation. In San Diego, however, no couple can become divorced quicker than in six months. California Family Code Section 2339 sets forth the mandatory six-month waiting period until a divorce can actually become finalized by the court. The waiting period does not begin until the divorce petition is filed and the other party is properly served. This essentially means that the court cannot restore "single person" status until this six-month waiting period has lapsed. Thus, neither the person filing for divorce (Petitioner) nor the party being served with the petition (Respondent) can remarry or file taxes separately until such time as the court has granted the individual's request to have his/her status restored as a single person.
The purpose of this waiting period, whether it be two years (as proposed in Senate Bill 518) or 6 months (in San Diego), is to give spouses the opportunity to make sure that they do not change their mind about going through the divorce process. During the waiting period, the spouses are not allowed to enter into another marriage, which provides the spouses with the potential for reconciliation. Furthermore, the waiting period is meant to give the parties and their attorneys time to prepare for a divorce settlement or trial. Family lawyers will advise their clients to begin gathering financial documents, and will begin to investigate important issues related to the parenting of children, if applicable.
But how long is too long for a divorce waiting period? Some San Diego divorce attorneys may agree with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and would argue that if California's waiting period were to be extended to a year, or even two years, it might unjustifiably increase the danger of abuse for women. This is especially the case where Husband and Wife remain living together pending divorce. As family lawyers are all too aware, in these economic time it may take some time for the marital residence to be sold, and often times there is not enough money to maintain two households. If such a bill were to be proposed here in California, perhaps it should include an exception clause for cases involving domestic violence or abuse. Luckily for those seeking divorce in San Diego, this is not an issue as of yet. The six-month waiting period remains in effect for the time being.