Healthy marriage guide making gains in the Florida Legislature

Published: Feb. 10, 2020 at 5:03 PM EST
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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service

February 10, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- There were 156,168 marriages in Florida in 2018, and nearly half as many divorces.

One estimate is that divorce is costing Florida taxpayers nearly $2 billion a year in direct and indirect costs such as court time and welfare payments, but legislation hopes to strengthen marriages by requiring couples read a privately produced guide to a healthy marriage as a condition of getting a marriage license.

At least five states already require couples to read a marriage guide before they can be wed.

Florida would be the next if sponsor Dennis Baxley has his way.

“This is a tool just to foster discussion. And there are five states where they are doing this with success and have seen their divorce rates go down, which means they are having healthier families,” said Baxley.

The publication is more like a glossy magazine than the currently required Florida bar pamphlet.

Reading one or the other would be acceptable under the legislation that has cleared House and Senate committees.

“And how they are going to resolve differences when they disagree. How they are going to prioritize family spending,” said Baxley.

The Utah publication encourages people to find the positives in their spouses and even encourages readers to make a list.

There is also a quiz on how well you know your husband or wife.

“It’s the height of hypocrisy,” said Barbara DeVane with the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women.

DeVane questions lawmakers own marital commitment.

“They come in with one spouse, they go out with another, or they get caught with their mistress. And the women too. There have been women who have done this,” said DeVane.

The legislation initially stalled when there was a six member committee that was going to decide what went into the pamphlet.

There were fears it would be political, but once the committee came out, the legislation started moving.

Clerks of Court would be required to post the publication on their websites and and hand out copies when available.

The cost would be born by private family groups.