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Lawmakers study marriage laws

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – An interim legislative committee will be studying North Dakota's marriage laws -- and supporters hope it will lead to stronger marriages and families.

It was introduced after some legislators tried to introduce the concept of pre-marriage counseling. Their bill would have raised the marriage license fee -- but give a discount to couples who compete per-marriage counseling.

"We consider the family to be the cornerstone of society," said Sen. Dick Dever (R-Bismarck), who sponsored a bill in the 2005 session to give an incentive to couples for attending pre-marriage counseling. "We need to look at ways to bolster the family without being intrusive."

Lawmakers also discussed a pre-divorce counseling bill. Both bills were turned into the study resolution that's before the committee.

Dever's bill would have raised the marriage license fee, but given a discount for those couples that go through pre-marriage counseling. He says he hopes the committee will take another look at that idea.

"We'll be looking at some other things, too," said Dever. "Waiting periods -- several states require you to wait -- and you can't go in, get a license and then tie the knot immediately. You should wait a few days, so it's not an impulsive thing."

The committee will try to come up with legislation for the 2007 session.