2004 Iowa premarital counseling/waiting period law passed


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IOWA PREMARITAL COUNSELING BILL GOES TO GOVERNOR
April 21, 2004
From a story quoted on the Smart Marriages listserv, 4/21/04

DES MOINES (AP) --- Couples would have to undergo 12 hours of premarital
counseling or wait longer for a marriage license under a bill approved
Tuesday by the Iowa Senate and sent to the governor.

The bill, approved 33-14, would set a waiting period of three days with
counseling and 20 days without it. It also requires couples to file a
parenting plan if they divorce or separate.

The bill, passed earlier by the House, was stripped down from an earlier
Senate version that would have allowed couples to enter into a "covenant
marriage," which would have made divorce more difficult.

The bill's supporters say the legislation is a way to help strengthen
marriages and slow the divorce trend that they say hurts children.

"This is a good step to take. It brings people to the table to discuss
issues ahead of time," said Sen. Neal Schuerer, R-Amana, who floor-managed
the bill in the Senate. "We are trying to have people understand, truly, the
cost of divorce."

Some opponents of the bill said marriage is a religious matter and not one
for the government to regulate.

"There are people that have no faith, no religion, that will be paying a lot
of money to get this counseling that they may or may not want," said Sen.
Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines.

McCoy said he also has concerns over who offers the counseling, saying the
requirements under the bill weren't stringent enough and exclude the most
highly trained counseling officials from providing service.

"You could get counseling from a quack and it would meet this criteria," he
said.

Sen. Maggie Tinsman, R-Davenport, said the bill did not support covenant
marriage contracts, which she said she opposes.

"I do think that asking people to get some kind of counseling before
marriage .. is a good idea," she said. "I don't think just having a great
date on the weekend and deciding to get married is a good idea. It takes
more than that."

A covenant marriage bill was passed in the Senate in 2002 but went no
further.

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