Couples who want to get married in Florida could soon be required to read a state-crafted guide to a healthy marriage before they can get a marriage license under a proposal moving ahead in the House.
The new requirement proposed under HB 1232, sponsored by state Rep. Clay Yarborough, is intended to give couples access to information on conflict resolution and parenting that could prevent them from divorcing in the future.
The proposal cleared its first of three House committee assignments on Tuesday, but its companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, has yet to gain momentum in the Senate.
Under Yarborough’s proposal, a six-member committee would be tasked with writing the “Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage” pamphlet for “any couple,” regardless of their sexual orientation. The guide would be made available online at courts.
The Speaker of the House, Senate President and governor would each get to appoint two members to the committee which would be charged with raising private funds to cover the marriage guide’s design, layout, printing and distribution costs.
While couples would be required to read the guide before they can wed, Yarborough said the mandate would be governed by the “honor system.”
“After reading the information they don’t have to follow anything, it is just meant to be a helpful resource,” Yarborough added.
Current state law incentivizes couples to complete premarital preparation courses by reducing their marriage license fees and waiving a three-day waiting period for couples who complete the course.
Richard Albertson, the founder of the nonprofit Live the Life that seeks to create communities with “divorce-free zones,” said he is in support of the bill because reducing the divorce rate in the state would save taxpayers money.
Albertson added he is a “little embarrassed” about the family law handbook couples in Florida are required to read before they can get a marriage license because it doesn’t include anything about “saving a marriage.”
“The whole document is about getting a divorce, it is kind of depressing, but it is what is handed to you,” Albertson said. “This booklet would give a positive alternative.”