2004 Michigan Pre-Divorce Counseling Bill


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HB-5470, As Passed House, May 19, 2004

A bill to amend 1846 RS 84, entitled "Of divorce,"

(MCL 552.1 to 552.45) by adding sections 5 and 5a.

[Note -- This "divorce effects program" does not merely tell people that divorce has bad effects. In fact it may not do that at all. As described in this legislation, it primarily gets parents focused on how the child, and both parents' relations with the child, will adjust to the divorce. It also helps the parents adjust to post-divorce life and parenting, teaches communication, conflict resolution and cooperation skills, and includes "reconciliation and counseling options".

Programs must be taught by licensed counselors or social workers, court workers, or an "official representative of a religious institution". I don't know if that term means only clergy, includes church employees, or includes trained lay volunteers in a church-connected program.

Sec. 5. (1) Except as provided in subsection (5), the

parties to a divorce shall complete, either together or

separately, a divorce effects program and a questionnaire as

provided in this section before entry of the judgment of

divorce. This subsection applies only if 1 or more of the

following are true:

(a) The parties are a minor child's parents.

(b) Either party is a minor child's physical custodian at the

time of filing the complaint for divorce.

(c) The wife is pregnant and, after the child is born, the

husband would be the child's presumed father. If the pregnancy

is discovered after the complaint is filed, but before entry of

the judgment of divorce, the court shall not enter the judgment

until the parties comply with this section.

(2) Parties to whom subsection (1) applies shall complete a divorce effects program covering at least all of the following subjects related to issues about the following:

(a) A child involved in the action:

(i) Developmental stages.

(ii) Responses to divorce.

(iii) Symptoms of maladjustment to divorce and responses to maladjustment.

(iv) Education or counseling options for the child.

(b) Parties to the action:

(i) Communication skills.

(ii) Conflict resolution skills.

(iii) Emotional adjustment, family adjustment, financial adjustment, and work adjustment techniques.
(iv) Stress reduction.

(v) Parallel and cooperative parenting techniques.

(vi) Reconciliation and counseling options, and remarriage issues.

(vii) Substance abuse information and referral.

(c) Court procedure and process as described in information

available from the relevant office of the friend of the court.

(3) Parties to whom subsection (1) applies shall complete a

questionnaire prior to completing a divorce effects program

answering the following questions as to whether the divorce will:

(a) Improve, maintain, or diminish the love, affection, and

other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.

(b) Improve, maintain, or diminish the capacity and

disposition of the parties involved to give the child love,

affections, and guidance and to continue the education and

raising of the child in the child's religion or creed, if any.

(c) Improve, maintain, or diminish the capacity and

disposition of the parties involved to provide the child

with food, clothing, medical care, or other remedial care

recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in

place of medical care and other material needs.

(d) Upset a stable, satisfactory environment.

(e) Result in a suitable living arrangement for the child involved.

(f) Improve, maintain, or diminish the mental and physical health of the parties involved.

(g) Improve, maintain, or diminish school and community record of the child.

(h) Improve, maintain, or diminish the willingness and

ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a

close and continuing parent and child relationship between the

child and the other parent.

(i) Reduce domestic violence or mental anguish of any of the parties involved.

(4) The provider of a divorce effects program shall issue a

certificate to each individual who completes the program

indicating that completion.

(5) If the individual conducting a program described in this

section is an official representative of a religious institution,

the program may omit a subject listed in subsection (2) if

training or education on that subject would violate a tenet of the religious institution.

(6) The court shall not order a divorce effects program if a

party to the marriage files a sworn statement stating that the

party is a victim of domestic violence by the other party. [The sworn statement shall be reviewed only by the court and shall not be a part of the public record of that divorce action.] The court may otherwise excuse a party to a divorce action from

attending a divorce effects program for good cause including, but

not limited to, availability of the program or the party's

ability to pay. If a party is not exempt or excused from a

divorce effects program as provided in this subsection and the

party fails to complete a divorce effects program, the court may

hold the party in contempt, punishable as provided in the revised

judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.101 to 600.9948, may

impose another sanction reasonable in the circumstances, and may

enter a judgment of divorce despite the party's failure to

complete a divorce effects program.

(7) As used in this section, "domestic violence" means an act

inflicting bodily injury, causing serious emotional injury or

serious psychological trauma, or placing in fear of imminent

physical harm by threat or force a person who is a spouse or

former spouse or has or has had a dating relationship with,

resides or has resided with, or has a child in common with the

person committing the violence.

Sec. 5a. (1) Only 1 or more of the following shall conduct

a divorce effects program required under section 5:

(a) A licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and

family therapist, licensed or limited licensed psychologist, or

certified social worker or social worker licensed or registered

as required by article 15 of the public health code, 1978 PA 368,

MCL 333.16101 to 333.18838.

(b) A psychiatrist as that term is defined in section 100c of

the mental health code, 1974 PA 258, MCL 330.1100c.

(c) An official representative of a religious institution.

(d) Court or friend of the court personnel.

(2) Payment for a divorce effects program shall be made

directly to the program provider. A program provider may use a

fee schedule that accommodates families of various financial

means, including allowing participation by indigent individuals for no fee.


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