The Florida Legislature recently took up a bill that would require all couples who want to get married to read their to be published “Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage” SB 682 (2020). In the Florida Senate the bill is known as SB 682 (2020) and the Florida House version is HB 319 (2020). The two are substantially similar. Unfortunately, the bills never made it past committee. The bill would create a new Marriage Education Committee within the Department of Children and Families and the sole purpose of the Committee is to create the Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage. The committee would consist of six “education and family advocates” two of which are appointed by the Governor, two by the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and two by the President of the Florida Senate. Given the current government, the text will be written by appointees of three conservative Republicans, so it will be interesting to see how (or if) the Guide turns out.
Topics in the Florida Guide to a Healthy MarriageSome of the topics to be included in the Guide are:
- conflict management,
- communication skills,
- family expectations,
- financial responsibilities and management,
- domestic violence resources, and
- parenting responsibilities.
Current Pre-Marriage RequirementsI think we can all agree that before a couple gets married they should possess some information and knowledge on how to make marriage work. Everyone knows that divorce rates are high. That’s just common sense. But Florida already requires couples to review a pre-marriage guide. Under Florida Statutes section 741.0306, couples cannot get a marriage license until they complete a four-hour premarital preparation course, or they must wait three days after getting the license to get married. And before they get a marriage license couples also have to sign a certificate that they have read or accessed a guide prepared by the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar that covers topics like:
- Prenuptial agreements;
- Shared parental responsibility for children and an appropriate parenting plan,
- Permanent relocation restrictions.
- Child support for minor children;
- Property rights, including equitable distribution, premarital property, and nonmarital property.
- Alimony or spousal support,
- Domestic violence, child abuse and neglect,
- Court procedure for dissolution,
- Parental education course requirements for divorcing parents with children,
- Community resources that are available, and
- Women’s rights as set forth in the Battered Women’s Bill of Rights.
Is the Guide a Good Idea?
But is a politically published Florida Guide to Healthy Marriage really a good way to go about passing on the knowledge to succeed in marriage and avoid divorce? Is it even necessary given the current requirements already in place? Will it stop spouses from saying how do I get divorced? It seems like the Guide would be written in such a way as to appease the political party that is in power at the time. The political party in power chooses the appointees. If the appointees happen to be evangelical Christians, they could recommend the citizens of Florida enter into a 1950s style marriage between a man and a woman, given that they believe homosexuality is a sin. The Guide would be re-drafted every 10 years, so the next edition could be published by far-left leaning appointees who could recommend a vastly different type or style of marriage. Although the policy behind the Guide has some merit, implementing it using the political process appears as if it will create drama and conflicts between competing interests in Florida. Perhaps a better idea would be to take politics out of the process and allow mental health professionals and marriage counselors to brainstorm and come up with a simplified Guide that would hopefully benefit all people who want to get married. What do you think about the proposed Florida Guide to Health Marriage idea? Contact the Spence Law Firm with any questions you may have.