Could “date night” help solve Arkansas’s divorce rate?

One of the most difficult issues for legislators and judges—and pretty much anyone who has to think about family law—is the role of the State in overseeing the family. Where does the State’s interest end in promoting the family? What is the definition of marriage? Does the State have any interest in promoting traditional marriage? These are not easy questions.

But no matter where you fall on the political (or religious) spectrum, everyone can pretty much agree on one thing: divorce is bad. It’s bad for culture. It’s bad for the parties. It’s bad for the kids.  As a family lawyer, I must acknowledge that in many individual situations, divorce is a necessary evil. Divorce is often the only way to protect an an innocent party or protect children. But the fact remains that everyone—including the State—benefits from thriving, healthy marriages. And Arkansas’s divorce rate is terrible.

Evidently Norway’s ruling Populist party has come to the same conclusion. Recently, Solveig Horne, Norway’s Minister for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, put forth a recommendation that Norwegian couples should have regular “date nights” as a means to reduce divorce rates. Here’s a link to The Guardian’s take on the recommendation.

This is a striking move, but it’s even more striking coming from Norway—hardly a stronghold for traditional family values. Northern Europe has long been the most morally permissive region in the world and bears very little relationship to Arkansas. I wouldn’t expect to see, for instance, Norway step forward with a Covenant Marriage (like the one former-Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee spearheaded in 2001) anytime soon.

I also wouldn’t expect to see Norway’s divorce rate spike to Arkansas’s astronomical levels, either. Arkansas’s divorce rate is one the highest in the country, second only to Nevada, the land of drive-thru marriages and, apparently, drive-thru divorces. Norway’s divorce rate is significantly lower than Arkansas’s and the United States as a whole.

The General Assembly (Arkansas’s legislative body) was extremely active during the past session in enacting new legislation aimed at curing social ills. Perhaps it should have considered recommending a “date night” for Arkansas’s married couples. Arkansas’s divorce rate has nowhere to go but up.