Louisville Courier-Journal - November 5th
by Morgan Watkins
A family court judge whose controversial comments about gay marriage recently caught the public's attention wants state lawmakers in Kentucky to help put a stop to quickie divorces for couples who have children.
Fayette Circuit Court Judge Tim Philpot met with legislators Friday in Frankfort and proposed a couple key changes to how "routine" divorce cases are handled throughout the commonwealth.
Divorce has become "a superhighway with no off-ramps and no speed limits," he told the legislature's Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary on Friday. He recommended adding a "pause" to slow the process down and give couples time to consider whether a divorce is best for their family.
Philpot suggested slowing things down in Kentucky by extending the waiting period for a divorce from 60 days to 180 days for couples with children and by holding hearings in those cases on whether the marriage is irretrievably broken. In a divorce case, he said, two questions must be answered: Is the marriage irretrievably broken, and is there any reasonable prospect of reconciliation?
This year, Philpot said he began holding hearings on whether a marriage is, in fact, irretrievably broken. At those hearings, each person fills out a brief questionnaire about their relationship. If one of them is ambivalent about splitting up, he may send them to a counseling session to help them determine whether they want to try to work things out. If someone is uncertain about divorce, Philpot advocated for taking their concerns into consideration.
"Doesn't that person have the right to have a voice, even if it's a whisper? Just a whisper," he said. "Just a slim chance to maybe slow the process down enough to be able to salvage the marriage."
Philpot told legislators he believes he is the only judge in Kentucky holding these "irretrievably broken hearings," which typically last 15 minutes
State Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, mentioned the importance of ensuring victims of domestic violence can quickly divorce their abusive spouses, which Philpot supported.
But state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, suggested the "pause" in divorce proceedings Philpot is proposing could be a "nanny state" move, although she agreed people jump into marriage too fast. "I think folks, once they've reached the court, have really decided what they want to do," she said. "I think we really have to respect decisions of Kentucky citizens that have made this decision."
Philpot didn't talk much about gay marriage Friday, although he did reiterate his belief that the greatest tragedy isn't that gay people want to get married but that straight people don't want to marry. Comments he made to a religious group in Wilmore, Ky., last September — including statements that compared gay marriage to an oxymoron, such as a "magnificent Chihuahua," and that the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage was "pretty close to insane" — drew attention to Philpot, who has presided over gay couples' adoption hearings.
After Friday's meeting, Philpot — a former state senator himself — stuck around to give legislators copies of his new novel on marriage and family court, which is called "Judge Z: Irretrievably Broken."
Reporter Morgan Watkins can be reached ator firstname.lastname@example.org.