There is a reason marriage and divorce is subject to regulation under family law statutes. Despite the fact that these facets of life are highly personal and, some might say, private affairs, states are understood to have a compelling social interest in the processes. Some states put so much stock in protecting that interest that they have passed laws to try to exercise some influence over the proceedings.
In Minnesota, one such law requires certain parents to take an approved course before their divorce can become final. It applies in cases where the parents have been unable to work out child custody or parenting time issues, perhaps through an alternative dispute resolution process such as is offered through divorce mediation.
In Oklahoma, the interest of the state appears to be a little greater. Starting this November, parent couples with children under the age of 18 will be required to take classes with the purpose of educating them about the effects divorce may have on their children and the option of possible reconciliation. The law reportedly would apply in cases in which the parents cite incompatibility as the reason for the divorce.
Some might argue that the provision seems to represent the state getting a little more involved in individual’s private lives than is fitting, but the Republican sponsors of the law stand by the measure. One of them describes marriage as a “lifelong contract with the state and with your children.” And he says that if there’s something the state can do to keep parents together, it should.
The law does provide couples with an opt-out if they can provide a compelling reason. What reasons might be considered acceptable isn’t clear from the reports we’ve seen.