Georgia Legislature Hopes to Bring Down Divorce Rate

Lawmakers believe pre-marital education is the key to reduce the divorce rate in Georgia. The bill gives a discount on marriage licenses to those who take at least four hours of pre-marital counseling.

Lawmakers say offering an incentive for those who get counseling will help promote healthy marriages. A lifetime commitment for some turns sour because of an unstable marriage, resulting in divorce.

Lawmakers are hoping to better prepare couples for what a marriage entails by passing a bill that would discount marriage licenses if couples get pre-marital counseling.

"I have questions about the state getting involved in something like that. I think if people are getting married through their churches, the church usually provides classes or meeting with clergies that should cover it," says Helen Schall, who doesn't think the bill is necessary.

The bill also raises the price for marriage licenses from $20 to $50, but this fee would be dropped to $10 if the couple gets the counseling.

Some say it is necessary for lawmakers to intervene, considering the state spends more than $1 billion each year subsidizing divorce.

"It costs a lot more for people to live separate than together. When one person is the bread winner and is suddenly no longer the bread winner, and if the person has a small child, the state has to step in and end up picking up the bill," says Doug Silvis, Community Coordinator,

"Lots of people go through those pre-marital things and the divorce rate is just as high," adds Helen Schall.

Silvis says this won't be the total answer to the problem, but will increase the chances that marriages will endure the test of time.

Studies from the Georgia Family Council show those who do get the counseling are less likely to think about divorce. Currently about 24 percent of couples in Georgia receive some sort of pre-marital counseling. Lawmakers are hoping the bill will increase those numbers.