The divorce rate in the USA is so high (between 40 and 50 per cent of all marriages) that some states are trying ways to reduce it by techniques such as mandatory premarital counselling, cooling-off periods, or the abolition of no-fault divorces altogether. Louisiana is trying a slightly different approach in which couples can opt for a more restrictive covenant marriage, which requires premarital counselling and sets strict limits on divorce (at least one cynical journalist has already referred to traditional and covenant marriages as the “regular” and “premium” options). The scheme has come about largely as a result of pressure from the churches, whose prime motive is avowedly to protect children from the trauma of separation, but which are also seeking to emphasise their view that marriage is a covenant, not just a private contract that one may cancel at will. Opponents protest that it is a retrograde step based on conservative social and religious views that reintroduces the myth that divorce is always somebody’s fault, and that it is a form of emotional blackmail pushing couples towards taking the harder option. What is certain is that the idea is spreading: several other states are interested, including Ohio and Arkansas, and Indiana is likely to reconsider the idea following the defeat of a covenant marriage bill earlier this year.
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