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Lawmakers at odds over divorce-remarriage bill

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Ryan Delaney was married 14 years before his ex-wife filed for divorce.

His mother, who was terminally ill, passed away before she had the chance to see him remarry because of a state-imposed waiting period.

"The law as written is anti-marriage," he said.

Wisconsin law requires divorcees to wait at least six months before remarrying. A bill to eliminate that waiting period passed the State Assembly two weeks ago.

Delaney sees it as a step in the right direction.

"We should be able to marry who we want without these unduly burdensome timelines imposed by the state."

Rep. Cindi Duchow (R-Delafield), who introduced the bill with Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), said as a long-time married woman, she wasn't initially aware of the waiting period. Only after speaking with a recently divorced friend was the issue brought to her attention.

"She was being deployed to go to Afghanistan," Duchow said. "She wasn't dating anybody at the time and had no desire to remarry. But ... she was going to go off to serve her country for a year ... and if she had wanted to remarry, she wasn't able to do so."

The waiting period, Duchow said, is government overreach. Wisconsin is one of only three states with a minimum waiting period of six months to get remarried. Most states have no restrictions on time after divorce.

But for conservative groups like Wisconsin Family Action, preserving marriage is precisely the role of government in the home.

"Government should be about protecting the institution of marriage, and this bill completely does away with that," Wisconsin Family Action President Julaine Appling said. "It says adult desires trump what is in the best interest, in particular, of the children."

For Appling, the well-being of children should come first -- and that means keeping the couple together at almost all costs. She suggested longer waiting periods and counseling sessions for couples attempting to go through divorce with minor children.

"The vast majority of children who go through a divorce and then have to work into a blended family, they suffer real consequences," she said. "They do not come out unscathed."

Duchow said most of the feedback she's gotten from constituents on this bill, however, has been positive. She's optimistic about it passing in the Senate.

Now about three years happily remarried, Delaney is also hopeful the law will change.

"Marriage is a great thing -- when it works. When it doesn't, let people live their lives."

Ester Wells


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