- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana won’t be shortening the waiting period for a divorce.

Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives rejected a bill Tuesday that would have cut the wait to six months for a no-fault divorce when the married couple has children under 18.

Under existing law, such couples must live separate and apart for one year before they can get a divorce, unless there are certain special circumstances such as domestic abuse.

Rep. Patrick Jefferson, a Democrat from Homer, proposed to reduce that separation requirement to six months. That would match the 180-day wait allowed for childless couples, couples with children 18 and older and couples with minor children from previous relationships.

Hoping to win support, Jefferson agreed to changes that would have required the couples to seek counseling - and document it - before getting the divorce after six months of separation.

But even with the counseling requirement, only 44 lawmakers in the House voted to shrink the wait, while 52 voted against it.

It needed 53 votes to pass.

Opponents of Jefferson’s bill said the longer wait gives couples time to patch things up.

“I recognize we’re not going to reconcile all of our homes. I get that. But I’m telling you we must do everything we can,” said Baton Rouge Rep. Rick Edmonds, a Republican and pastor.

Both sides said they were trying to do what’s best for children.

Supporters of Jefferson’s proposal said the extra six months, enacted a decade ago, have only increased the time that couples bicker and boosted the money paid to divorce lawyers. Jefferson said dragging out the time it takes to get a divorce can be harmful to children.

“There’s nothing more pernicious or destructive to children than to see parents who do not speak,” he said. “This is about conflict resolution, closure.”

The measure was recommended by the Louisiana State Law Institute, which studies complex legal issues for the Legislature.

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House Bill 136: www.legis.la.gov

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