Topeka A proposal to establish “covenant marriages” in Kansas has drawn opposition from lawyers and a women’s rights group who say the measure will inject more conflict into divorce proceedings.
“The narrow and specific conditions that must be met for a divorce in a covenant marriage contract places women and children at risk,” said Kari Rinker, state coordinator and lobbyist for Kansas NOW.
House Bill 2667 started out as a bill to re-organize various statutes. But in the House, an amendment was added to provide for optional covenant marriages, which would make it more difficult to end a marriage by doing away with no-fault divorce.
Under a covenant marriage, couples could only divorce after undergoing marriage counseling and living apart for one year. A divorce could also be granted in cases of infidelity, domestic abuse, or if a spouse was convicted of a serious crime.
State Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, said his amendment would help preserve marriages and families.
But Kansas NOW and the Kansas Association for Justice, a non profit organization of consumer lawyers, said the proposal would cause problems.
Rinker with Kansas NOW said the requirement that the couple participate in marital counseling could result in sessions with one spouse’s batterer, which causes safety concerns. And, she said, not every couple can afford counseling.
“Mandating that people stay in unhealthy marriages will not make the marriage successful,” she said. She also said young people may feel pressure to enter into a covenant marriage.
The bill is now being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In written testimony to the committee, Katherine Kirk, a Lawrence attorney, said the family law section members of the Kansas Assocation of Justice “believe that the covenant marriage provisions will open a virtual Pandora’s Box in situations where married couples cannot work through their differences.”