Our Wisconsin legislature is fast-tracking a bill we believe is harmful to minor children, the individuals comprising a marriage and the institution of marriage in general. We are asking you to consider our arguments against the bill and if you agree with us, then please call your state senator and state representative and urge them to oppose this legislation.

Background

Wisconsin currently has a six-month (6-month) waiting period after a divorce is finalized before a person can remarry.  Assembly Bill 439 and its senate companion, Senate Bill 398, would completely remove this waiting period for any divorced individual in our state, regardless of whether or not minor children are involved.

Current Situation
The bill is authored by two Republicans: Senator Alberta Darling (River Hills) and Representative Cindi Duchow (Pewaukee). They are joined by eight Republican representatives as co-sponsors (Scott Krug, Amy Loudenbeck, Bob Kulp, Joel Kitchens, Jesse James, Ken Skowronski, Travis Tranel and Mary Felzkowski), two Democrat representatives (Lisa Subeck and Christine Sinicki), as well as one additional Republican senator (Dale Kooyenga) and one additional Democrat senator (Janis Ringhand).

When the bill was circulated for co-sponsors last month, WFA president Julaine Appling sent every legislator a memo explaining why we oppose this bill and urging them to not co-sponsor it.  We believe that memo helped keep the co-sponsor list from being larger.

The bill was introduced on September 12 and public hearings in both the Assembly and the Senate are scheduled for today, Tuesday (9/24) and Wednesday (9/25). The Assembly Family Law Committee is chaired by Rep. Jesse Rodriguez who last session was supportive of this bill when it had a hearing and vote in her committee. (The Assembly passed this bill last session on a voice vote. The bill, however, died in the Senate committee and never became law.)

That both public hearings are happening so soon after introduction makes us believe both houses want to put this bill on the floor for a full vote in October when both the Senate and the Assembly are scheduled for floor sessions. Apparently, there’s a “full-court press” to quickly pass this bill.

In the Senate, last session the bill was assigned to a committee chaired by a senator who was not in favor of this bill. This session, however, it is assigned to the Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Dale Kooyenga, who is a co-sponsor of the bill.  Julaine has talked with his staffer who clerks this committee and was told he was quite committed to it. 

Why This Proposal Is Bad for Children, Wounded Individuals Experiencing Divorce, and the State of Wisconsin

The full memo (containing numerous citations) we sent to the legislators is available HERE.  We’re summarizing below some talking points you can use when you call your legislators.

  1. Minor children should be a top concern in a divorce and remarriage situation. Research regularly and repeatedly shows minor children are very vulnerable emotionally, socially, physically, and academically when their parents are divorcing. Research also shows (and certainly common sense would confirm) that vulnerability increases when they become part of a blended family with all the changes and adjustments that brings. The well-being of a child should not be sacrificed on the altar of adult desires because a parent wants to immediately remarry after a divorce is finalized.
  2. Divorce is very stressful in multiple ways on the adults involved. A waiting period ensures men and women take some time to recover before entering a new marriage.
  3. Remarriages are statistically more likely to end in divorce than are first marriages. The state should do everything it can to ensure newly divorced individuals are deliberate and are fully prepared for marrying again, including time for pre-marital counseling, which when done right can take from 3-6 months.
  4. The state has a vested interest in marriage and divorce, especially when children are involved because the state is depending on future generations being well-adjusted, healthy, competent citizens who will become the next workforce, taxpayers, entrepreneurs, leaders, etc. Safeguarding children by requiring their parents to wait before a remarriage after a divorce helps to ensure the well-being of children is considered.
  5. Every divorce costs the taxpayers of Wisconsin. Vulnerable remarriages mean the state and its taxpayers will very likely be shouldering additional costs from divorces.

What You Can Do

If you agree with us that this bill should not become law, then please contact your state senator and state representative right away, given how quickly these companion bills are moving in both houses.  You can find full contact information for your representative and senator HERE (just put your address in the search bar to the far right above the map). A phone call is especially good, but an email can do the job as well.

Summary
Wisconsin has the worst combination of divorce laws in the country with our “no-fault,” “no-contest” provisions. Basically, anyone can walk away from a marriage for any or no reason. Rather than strengthening the institution of marriage, this proposed legislation to do away completely with a waiting period following a divorce before remarrying, sets the individuals up for yet another marriage failure, which hurts individuals and further erodes the institution of marriage.  When minor children are involved, their well being should be the top priority.

We realize this is a very emotional issue. We’ve had people contact us who say they are Christians telling us that by opposing this legislation we are “forcing them to live in sin.”  Obviously, they have allowed their emotions to completely overtake them. Those supporting the bill say the government should have no say in when a person marries after a divorce, and they always have a personal, emotional story to relate. We realize good people can disagree—and that’s why we ask you to consider the issue and our arguments and if you find yourself agreeing that the bill would not be good for children, the adults involved or the entire state, please call your state representative and state senator as soon as possible and ask them to oppose the bill.

If you would drop Julaine a quick email letting her know you made a call, we’d really appreciate that. Many thanks for carefully considering this bill and for your involvement should you find yourself agreeing.

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