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Bill could change one state's arcane divorce law

From time to time, Florida residents will hear or read about a law that was put into place many years ago and is no longer relevant, but that remains in effect. One southern state is currently considering legislation that would change one such law that pertains to divorce. The issue sheds light on the slow pace of change when it comes to legislation and the application of existing law.

The law in question requires spouses who are pursuing an uncontested divorce to prove that they have not shared a home within the past 12 months. The means of proving that fact is to have a witness come to court and testify to the same. This can place an undue burden on many spouses, who have to find someone willing to come to court on their behalf and discuss their personal living arrangements.

In addition, there are cases in which the court finds fault with the testimony of a witness. In such instances, the court can require the spouse to find a new witness and come back to court at a later date. For many people, their children are the parties most suited for this type of testimony, but most parents would like to leave their children out of the matter.

Legislation has been proposed to the General Assembly that would eliminate the need to bring a witness to court to prove that there has been no cohabitation. Many who support this change assert that the existing law does little to protect spouses, as it is possible to simply have a close friend or family member come and lie about whether there has been continuing relations between divorcing spouses. Furthermore, many point out that unless an individual has been in a person's presence around the clock, there is no way for testimony about interaction between two people to be reliable. As the matter moves through the legislative process, many in Florida and elsewhere will check in to see if the change in divorce law is signed into law.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Did they spend the night together? Bill would end need for divorce court witness", Michael Dresser, Feb. 17, 2016

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