TOPEKA — Editor's note and update: Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) has identified himself as the author of this bill. He said that the bill replaces incompatibility with eight reasons for couples to divorce. He also disputed that this change constitutes an end to "no fault" divorce, which he argued is different than incompatibility.
By Bryan Lowry
Eagle Topeka bureau
Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe, said he got phone calls from Kansans all Thursday night after he introduced a bill that would remove incompatibility as a valid reason for divorce.
Im really surprised thats getting as much controversy or I should say as much notice as it is, Esau said Friday outside the House chamber. He said the bill is designed to clean up divorce law by requiring specific reasons for divorce.
The bill has yet to receive a number, but has already received plenty of attention.
Esau, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the bill, but he did not author it. He said he submitted it on behalf of a legislator who is not on the committee. Esau said he has not been given permission to disclose the name of that legislator.
But he said he supports the bills intent.
No-fault divorce gives people an easy out instead of working at it, Esau said. It would be my hope that they could work out their incompatibilities and learn to work together on things.
Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, another Judiciary member, opposes the bill.
We really should let people decide when to end relationships, he said.
Esau denied that bill was an example of government overreach. He said the state gives benefits to married couples, such as tax breaks, so couples should not enter into the institution of marriage lightly.
Dont think this is something that you can do temporarily and get out of, Esau said.
The bill would require Kansans seeking a divorce to prove their spouses fault, a requirement which was common throughout the United States 60 years ago.
Ward, a practicing attorney who has handled divorce cases, said this would be foolish.
Thats really not a healthy way to deal with families that are changing, Ward said.
He said that making divorces less contentious helps couples with children maintain respectful relationships because they will need to continue to parent together.
Esau said that the state has a vested interest in supporting strong families and that divorce undermines that.
I think weve made divorce way too easy in this country, he said. If we really want to respect marriage it needs to be a commitment that people work at and dont find arbitrary reasons to give up.
Morgan OHara Gering, a family law attorney in Wichita, questioned whether the bill would actually deter many people from seeking divorces.
From my experience I cant see that its going to stop people from getting divorced, she said.
Instead OHara Gering thinks the bill would just make divorces nastier by requiring people to prove their spouses fault in court.
It could create a lot more litigation and a lot more headaches just to fight about whos to blame, she said.