Divorce: Would it be better outside the courts?

A new bill introduced in the Minnesota legislature Monday would drastically change divorce proceedings in the state and allow couples to end marriages outside the court.

Bill Doherty, project director for Minnesota Couples on the Brink and a professor at the University of Minnesota, is the author of the cooperative private divorce bill and joined MPR News' Kerri Miller to talk about his proposal.

"In our culture, court means contest," he said. "It means fight. It means you each hire a lawyer who fights for your best interest and a judge makes a decision. That is how we've culturally viewed divorce as a battle."

Divorces are culturally part of the court system today because they started as fault-based situations. Couples needed lawyers and judges to determine fault in the failure of the marriage. Today, no-fault divorces don't necessarily need the court system to resolve conflict, Doherty said.

Couples could still hire lawyers, mediators and financial counselors to help with the division of assets and custody of children.

One caller said she is going through an amicable divorce, but the court system can easily turn the divorce process sour.

Another listener said the out-of-court system isn't right for everyone:

Doherty said the bill would add an alternative for couples to consider, with the courts always being an option down the line if needed.

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