Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Marriages Need Our Help (DNR op ed piece)

DNR graphic (correct date is 1996-2013)
This opinion piece appeared in the July 5, 2014, issue of the Daily News-Record:

Every year since 1996 I've asked the clerk of the local Circuit Court for statistics on marriages and divorces in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Last year there were fewer than average numbers of marriage licenses issued, 924, (ten of which were “not used”) and an all time record number of divorces granted, 484.

Since our population has increased significantly since 1996 one would expect a steady rise in marriage numbers, but that has not been the case. That doesn't mean fewer couples are pairing up, but that more people than ever live in undocumented (formerly common law) relationships.
With fewer legalized marriages we should also expect fewer official divorces. But that is not true, either. And of course we have no way of knowing how many unmarried couples' break up as well, often with consequences just as distressing as their married counterparts.

The graph above shows that the numbers of local marriages and divorces, while varying from year to year, have remained relatively flat in spite of a significant population increase since 1996, with the highest number of marriages recorded in 2001 (1003), and the lowest in 2010 (879) . The highest number of divorces was last year (484), and the lowest was in 2009 (347).

Here are some things we could do to help:

1. Encourage young people to seek pre-engagement counseling. Premarital counseling is important, but generally comes too late for couples in need of reconsidering their choice.

2. Discourage the false belief that cohabiting couples (in “trial marriages”) can then separate without any serious emotional and other consequences. Partners in any exclusive and intimate relationships have already committed a form of premarital “marriage”, whether or not their union is officially registered.
3. Provide experienced mentor couples and/or professional counseling for newly married couples and for couples experiencing serious conflicts in their relationships.

4. Pass legislation requiring longer waiting periods for no-fault divorces when one partner is still wanting to work things out.

Let’s agree that 484 divorces and only 914 marriages represent numbers we seriously need to change.

Here's a link to a post on how amicable divorces may be even harder for children to understand and deal with than conflictual ones.
Post a Comment