New Oklahoma law expands education program required before parents divorce

Oklahoma's governor has signed a law requiring educational programs for divorcing parents who have children under 18. It amends a law that already lets courts require such classes, following a model common in many states and localities around the country. But it adds a few new topics, to help couples work on their marriage, if they want, as well as their coparenting. It also teaches communication and cooperation skills that are useful for the current marriage, and/or for divorced co-parenting, and for later relationships with others if they do divorce. The relevant part reads:

B. In actions for divorce based upon incompatibility filed on or after November 1, 2014, where the interest of a child under eighteen (18) years of age is involved, the adult parties shall attend, either separately or together, an educational program concerning the impact of divorce on children. The program shall include the following components:

1. Short-term and longitudinal effects of divorce on child well-being;

2. Reconciliation as an optional outcome;

3. Effects of family violence;

4. Potential child behaviors and emotional states during and after divorce including information on how to respond to the child's needs;

5. Communication strategies to reduce conflict and facilitate cooperative coparenting; and

6. Area resources, including but not limited to nonprofit organizations or religious entities available to address issues of substance abuse or other addictions, family violence, behavioral health, individual and couples counseling, and financial planning.

Program attendees shall be required to pay a fee of not less than Fifteen Dollars ($15.00) and not more than Sixty Dollars ($60.00) to the program provider to offset the costs of the program. A certificate of completion shall be issued upon satisfying the attendance and fee requirements of the program, and the certificate of completion shall be filed with the court. The program provider shall carry general liability insurance and maintain an accurate accounting of all business transactions and funds received in relation to the program. The program shall be completed prior to the temporary order or within forty-five (45) days of receiving a temporary order. However, and in all events, a final disposition of child custody shall not be granted until the parties complete the program required by this subsection. The court may waive attendance of the program for good cause shown.

C. Each judicial district may adopt its own local rules governing the program programs.

D. The Administrative Office of the Courts may enter into a memorandum of understanding with a state entity or other organization in order to compile data including but not limited to the number of actions for divorce that were dismissed after participating in the program, the number of programs that were completed and the number of program participants for each fiscal year. The report shall include data collected from each judicial district. The report shall be published on the Administrative Office of the Courts website and distributed to the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Minority Leader of the Senate.


Strengthening and improving marriages is a progressive cause. Just ask the original progressives.

In "What a progressive used to be", Anthony Esolen ranges into a variety of issues here where I'm not always sure I agree with him, but his point is fresh and important — the original, populist, progressives sought to build up institutions based on individuals, families and communities, empowered by "group self-respect", to resist the growth and power of huge impersonal bureaucracies, public or private. He tells the story of Samuel W. Dike, founder of the Divorce Reform League. To which I would add Gov. Pat Brown, who launched the marriage-strengthening reform commission that later devolved into unilateral no-fault divorce; Justice Louis Burke and other founders of the family Conciliation Courts, and various recent and contemporary "healthy marriage movement" activists such as Diane Sollee of Smart Marriages, family therapy professor Bill Doherty, and radical divorce-mediator-turned-marriage-mediator Judy Parejko.

What a progressive used to be:

Progressives once fought for the family because they understood that families protect us from atomization and amalgamation.

Anthony Esolen |

Infantilizing your spouse is no laughing matter, TV commercial supermoms!

Something bothered me about the commercial where a woman said it was her job to keep her husband from leaving the house in pajamas, but I didn't know what it was until Bonnie Algera put her finger on it:

"Really? That's not his job? Did you ever think that infantilizing your spouse is why you feel like you are responsible for everything on earth and can't catch a break?"

That is at the root of so many problems in people's marriages. It's also a problem to be the kind of person who would do that, but it doesn't help that we're in a culture that encourages it.

Gambling problems and senior citizens: Family lawyers should be alert

I'm posting this because family law attorneys need to know about it, or more to the point, need to THINK about it even though we already know it. But it's something that everyone should be concerned about.

"Problem gambling among vulnerable older women is strongly linked to the proliferation of the modern slot-machine-dominated casino. 

"Simply put, the new slot machine is engineered to addict people. It produces a mesmerizing experience of sound, lights and repetitive motion that makes both time and money vanish. Players talk of “disappearing” into the machine and getting into a zone.

"Seniors, who may suffer from physical, mental and emotional health problems, are especially at risk of succumbing to computerized slots. Medication, cognitive impairment, depression and just plain sadness can interfere with judgment and decision-making. And the casino itself – dark, smoky, and filled with incessant noise, pulsating light and dizzying carpet patterns and layout — can contribute to mental confusion and disorientation. It is not uncommon for older people to suffer sudden heart attacks while playing the slots."


Amy Ziettlow, Seniors in Casino Land: Tough Luck for Older Americans


"The Harmful, Even Deadly — Effects of Casino Gambling" By Amy Ziettlow, Tampa Tribune 2/23/14


Why ungoverned play is crucial for children

We've all seen a thousand articles reminiscing about how children used to roam freely through woods and city alike, inventing their own games and choosing their own playmates. But it's rare to find an explanation of WHY that's so important for children's development.

Think about the saying, "I'm taking my marbles and going home!" Would our children and grandchildren even know what that means? It is the fact that play is voluntary - - that your playmates are free NOT to play with you - - that makes us learn lasting lessons in how to get along with others; and that requires truly voluntary play, not a "playdate" or an "activity", Peter Gray writes in The Independent:

 I’m a research bio-psychologist with a PhD, so I’ve done lots of school. I’m a pretty good problem-solver, in my work and in the rest of my life, but the real problems I’ve faced in life include physical ones, social ones, moral ones, and emotional ones ... . They require the judgement, wisdom and creative ability that come from life experiences. For children, those experiences are embedded in play.

I grew up in the United States in the 1950s, at the tail end of what the historian Howard Chudacoff refers to as the “golden age” of children’s free play. School days were six hours long ... half-hour recesses in the morning and afternoon, and an hour at lunch. Teachers may or may not have watched us, from a distance, but if they did, they rarely intervened. We wrestled on the school grounds, climbed trees in the adjacent woods, played with knives and had snowball wars in winter ... we were free – free to play for hours each day after school, all day on weekends, and all summer long. Homework was non-existent in primary school and minimal in secondary school. There seemed to be an implicit understanding, then, that children need lots of time and freedom to play. ...

The most important skills that children everywhere must learn in order to live happy, productive, moral lives are skills that cannot be taught in school. Such skills cannot be taught at all. They are learned and practised by children in play. These include the abilities to think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions.

All mammals play when they are young and those that have the most to learn play the most. ... Play is the natural means by which children and other young mammals educate themselves. ... Children everywhere are born with a strong drive to play with other children and such play is the means by which they acquire social skills and practise fairness and morality. Play, by definition, is voluntary, which means that players are always free to quit. If you can’t quit, it’s not play. All players know that, and so they know that to keep the game going, they must keep the other players happy. The power to quit is what makes play the most democratic of all activities. When players disagree about how to play, they must negotiate their differences and arrive at compromises. Each player must recognise the capacities and desires of the others, so as not to hurt or offend them in ways that will lead them to quit. Failure to do so would end the game and leave the offender alone, which is powerful punishment for not attending to the others’ wishes and needs. The most fundamental social skill is the ability to get into other people’s minds, to see the world from their point of view. Without that, you can’t have a happy marriage, or good friends, or co-operative work partners. Children practise that skill continuously in their social play.

In play, children also learn how to control their impulses and follow rules. All play – even the wildest-looking varieties – has rules. A play-fight, for example, differs from a real fight in that the former has rules and the latter doesn’t. In the play-fight you cannot kick, bite, scratch, or really hurt the other person; and if you are the larger and stronger of the two, you must take special care to protect the other from harm. While the goal of a real fight is to end it by driving the other into submission, the goal of a play-fight is to prolong it by keeping the other happy. In sociodramatic play – the kind of imaginary play exemplified by young children’s games of “house” or pretending to be superheroes – the primary rule is that you must stay in character. ... The art of being a human being is the art of controlling impulses and behaving in accordance with social expectations.

"Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less" - - Peter Gray, The Independent, 1/12/14

Post-partum depression devastates many mothers, fathers and children

Apparently the lady who crashed into the White House and Capitol barricades was suffering from post-partum depression. She had her one-year-old child with her, who thank God wasn't hurt - - physically, that is. ("Miriam Carey, Capitol Suspect, Suffered Post-Partum Depression" - - ABC News 10-3-13)

I'm not someone who believes in every new syndrome or disorder just because everyone's talking about it. But in case you wondered, post-partum depression is absolutely real. And terrifying. A friend from my law school class, who was absolutely normal, outgoing and responsible, was struck by it. She stabbed herself to death while home alone with her baby.

We see a lot of post-partum depression in our family law cases. Of all the reasons for divorce, it's one of the saddest, because post-partum depression divorces are fast-moving, quickly push the spouses to extremes, and often see the father pushed out of a very young child's life even though what's really going on is that the mother needs help. But what's saddest about them is that it seems like they should be preventable.

In fact, when I classify the different causes of divorce in my cases, post-partum depression is one of the major independent causes. Overall, most divorces are caused either by behavior that would be a traditional "fault" ground of divorce, or by the parties making choices that are influenced by the fact that with unilateral divorce laws, marriage doesn't bind them nor benefit them as much as it used to. That induces both no-fault "drifting apart", which people usually could reverse if they wanted to badly enough and early enough, and affairs. Besides those, the other major root causes of divorce are:

  • Post-partum depression
  • People who won't seek any mental health treatment (usually men, often military)
  • People who won't take their medication (usually men)
  • Addictions

These people have spouses who care deeply and often sacrifice their best years for them, but in our current system, there is no authority they can go to to get them to seek and cooperate with treatment, except by filing a divorce or child custody case. With post-partum depression, in particular, sufferers often refuse to acknowledge a problem, or even if they do, they find it easier to blame their spouses for it and force them to leave. And the family court system helps them do this, because its  built-in tendency is to protect women from the more well-known and traditional dangers, rather than from their own internal problems.

Surely there must be something that we can do better!