Friday, February 26, 2010

Not Sure About this Bill

A bill has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly that would allow couples going through divorce to still live in the same house, so long as they don't have sex and sleep in separate bedrooms:
Getting a divorce is a bit more complicated. But Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, is trying to make it easier.
Zirkin is a lawyer who works with divorcing couples. He said the three bills he presented Wednesday to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee are an effort to "modernize (Maryland's) laws of divorce."

One way he hopes to change the law: redefining what it means for people to live "separate and apart."

Currently, couples must live apart for one or two years, depending on the circumstances, before they can be divorced. But he has seen an increasing number of couples who cannot afford two households, which effectively means "people who don't have money are therefore not able to get a divorce," Zirkin said.

His solution? Don't move out of the house, just move out of the bedroom.

Zirkin's bill -- cross-filed in the House of Delegates -- would allow parties to live in the same home, as long as they maintained separate bedrooms. And, like current law, both parties must swear in court they did not have sex with each other during the allotted time period.

Sen. Larry Haines, R-Carroll, said he had mixed emotions about the bill.

"How can a couple live under the same roof and not have sex for 12 months?" he asked.

Laure Ruth, representing the Women's Law Center of Maryland, said it shouldn't matter.

"I don't actually think it's the state's business," she said. "If my husband and I want to get divorced and continue to have sex, or stay married and stop having sex, which I fear happens much more often than we would like to think, it's not the state's business."

Ruth supports the bill and Zirkin's two others, which would reduce the amount of time couples must be separated before they are eligible for a divorce hearing. The bills would change the time to six months in some cases and a year in others. The length of time depends on factors such as whether both people agree to the divorce.

Zirkin said the current time periods -- one or two years -- are longer than nearly every other state. He did not have statistics on couples who reconciled during the separation period, but said he has never seen a reconciliation happen after six months.
Getting a divorce is a lengthy process in Maryland, which itself is something of a hinderance, and sometimes money is a factor in divorces, but I am not sure about this co-habitating thing.

Here is the funny thing about the law. As far as I know, an unmarried couple living under the same roof may be presumed to be sexually active, but here the law is going to require an affidavit or testimony under oath that the two people are not having sex. I agree with Ms. Ruth--it is not the state's business. Oddly enough, the law currently requires that divoricing couples not living together can't have sex or it technically resets the waiting period. Now, riddle me this:

1. How does the state know? and ,

2. Why does it matter if a divorcing couple is having sex or not having sex? and,

3. Why is sex a determining factor? Why not shared finances? Why not public appearances? Why not any number of things that a married couple does together?

Still, if both parties want to get a divorce, a decision usually not reached in the heat of the moment but after months of consideration, why does the state stand in the way?


Anonymous said...

The current law already mandates no sex for a year. This bill does not change that at all. Check your facts.

Matt Johnston said...

Yes, I am aware of the that law that bans sex and that the bill doesn't change that requirement. But I wonder, why the importance of the sex requirement?

Matt Johnston said...

Yes, I am aware of the that law that bans sex and that the bill doesn't change that requirement. But I wonder, why the importance of the sex requirement?