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Proposed Florida legislation would mandate marriage guide

Legislation proposed by Florida state lawmakers would provide some required reading for couples before they could apply for a marriage license. The legislators behind the bill, who include Jacksonville Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough, are seeking to lower the divorce rate in our state, even though it's already been steadily dropping.

The Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage would include topics like communication, parenting and domestic violence. It would also provide a list of resources where couples can seek guidance, either before they marry or if their marriage hits a rough patch.

The newly-formed Marriage Education Committee would write the guide. The committee is comprised of six family and marriage education advocates, all named by Florida legislative leaders and the governor. Costs for the guide would be covered by private funds.

The current language describing the bill (HB 1323) says that it would "prohibit issuance of marriage license until petitioners verify both parties have obtained and read guide or other presentation of similar information."

One psychologist who counsels engaged and married couples calls the idea "a start." She believes "as a professional psychologist that people, if possible, in this country, in this world, should be mandated to have premarital counseling."

It remains to be seen, if the bill becomes law, whether it has any impact on Florida marriages. However, a guide that provides information about resources in their area they may not be familiar with could prove valuable to many couples before and after marriage. If you believe that you may be headed toward divorce, however, it's wise to seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney as early as possible.

Source: WTSP Channel 10 News, "Bill would require couples to read 'marriage guide' before saying 'I do'," Shannon Valladolid, Jan. 25, 2018

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