Kansas lawmakers to hold informational hearings on marriage

? A Kansas legislative committee has scheduled two days of informational hearings next week on the subject of marriage, but one committee member said the focus would be more about divorce.

Rep. Jan Pauls, R-Hutchinson, who serves on the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, said one of the key questions to be addressed is whether Kansas has made it too easy for couples to get divorced, especially in cases that do not involve domestic violence.

“Some people have suggested it would be helpful to have requirements of counseling, or extended or longer waiting periods, as long as it doesn’t involve domestic violence or problems like that,” Pauls said.

Kansas is what’s considered a “no fault” divorce state, which means that either party in a marriage can petition for divorce, and that person does not have to prove that there are legal grounds for it beyond “incompatibility.”

Kansas also does not have a mandatory waiting period before a divorce can be granted, and it does not require couples to go through counseling before a divorce. Judges do have the discretion to order counseling, and in some counties they do so routinely, especially in cases that involve the custody of minor children.

“I think what’s being discussed is the idea that it might be helpful to have some people wait because sometimes it’s a problem that can be worked out,” Pauls said. “Sometimes it’s kind of in the heat of the moment, someone wants out, and if they go and start taking assets … Some of the things that occur, how someone gets to the courthouse first and starts clearing out accounts.”

Among the groups expected to present information, she said, is Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based organization that describes itself as, “a global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive.”

In recent years, lawmakers have considered proposals for what are called “covenant marriages,” which are voluntary arrangements that require premarital counseling as well as marital counseling, and only limited allowable grounds for divorce.

None of those proposals has ever passed, and Pauls said she is not aware of any efforts underway to raise the issue again this year.

She also said she does not believe next week’s hearings will be a springboard to reintroduce the so-called “religious freedom” bill that passed the House last year but died in the Senate. That bill would have given legal protection to anyone who refuses, on religious grounds, to take part in or recognize same-sex marriages.