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North Carolina lawmakers are debating a bill that would make it harder to get a divorce in the state.
Senate Bill 518, dubbed the Healthy Marriage Act, was filed in the Senate on March 28. Republican Senator Austin M. Allran, who represents Alexander and Catawba counties is the primary sponsor of the bill.
It is co-sponsored by Republican senators Warren Daniel and Norman W. Sanderson.
The new bill, if adopted, would double the one-year waiting period before a divorce could be granted and would require husband and wife to receive conflict resolution counseling, as well as counseling if they have children.
The bill's supporters told WRAL-TV they believe the restrictions will help cut the state's divorce rate.
"North Carolina has a very high divorce rate – one of the worst – and it's probably because we've been lax in our divorce laws. Made it too easy," Senator Allran told WRAL.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, North Carolina's divorce rate was 3.8 per 1,000 marriages in 2009. The national rate was slightly lower at 3.4 per 1,000 marriages. The state ranked 19th nationwide.
South Carolina was at 3.0 per 1,000 for the same time period.
North Carolina's one-year waiting period is already longer than most other Southeast states.
It only takes a couple weeks in Georgia and Tennessee before a divorce is granted. Florida couples don't even have to leave their homes - they can file online to have their marriages dissolved.
Allran said he also wants to change the mandatory separation during the waiting period and have couples continue to live together.
"Instead of telling people that they cannot cohabitate during that period of time because, after all, they are married, if they would be able to continue (living together)," he said told WRAL.
The proposal doesn't offer any exceptions for domestic violence or abuse, but Allran said he might add that to the bill before its first hearing in committee, which could come this week.
The bill passed its first reading in the Senate on Monday and was referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.
Copyright 2013 WBTV. WRAL-TV contributed to this report. All rights reserved.