Minnesota Marriage Education bill passes!! - 7/4/01
Here's a message from Bill Doherty that gives us something
celebrate on the 4th of July. Hope you're all out there
grilling and eating
watermelon and enjoying your families.
I understand that some of you will not be pleased with certain
this legislation - even distressed by it, but it is a great victory
Minnesota - seen as one of our most PC states - on board for
marriage through a state-wide marriage education approach.
This is a GREAT
Hats off to Sen Steve Dille and Rep Elaine Harder, Bill Doherty
Olson for their years of hard work on this one. It raises the
increases the requirement for premarital education to 12 hours from
hours required in FL and other states, has a significant $50
with the standard verification form is much more likely to be
marriage license clerks. Maybe this means we have to have the
Marriages conference in Minneapolis! - diane
After three years, we have success: the Minnesota premarital
bill has passed and will become law on August 1. It offers a
waiver of marriage license fees to couples who do a 12 hour
education course that uses a premarital inventory and includes
about communication skills and conflict management skills. I
the best such law in the country because it calls for the elements
premarital education that research has shown are important; the
states with premarital programs generally call for four hours and
Most of the credit goes to Senator Steve Dille, with Rep. Elaine
being the other major player. A small group of us met over a
months to craft the bill. We even engaged county clerks to
help write into
the bill the exact language for the form that couples must submit
that the requirement has been met. (Otherwise, the 99
could take years to develop their own, often inconsistent
Olson and I testified at various points in the legislature.
And then there
is the interesting story of how Steve Dille got the bill around
The challenge now will be to get the word out about this law,
and to raise
the standards for premarital education around the state.
Here is the relevant text:
MINNESOTA PREMARITAL EDUCATION BILL
PASSED BY THE LEGISLATURE JUNE 30, 2001
EFFECTIVE AUGUST 1, 2001
KEY EXCERPTS FROM THE STATUTE
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF
The marriage license fee for parties who have completed at least
of premarital education is $20. [NOTE: REDUCED FROM $70]
· In order to qualify for
the reduced fee, the parties must submit a
signed and dated statement from the person who provided the
education confirming that it was received.
· The premarital education
must be provided by a licensed or ordained
minister or the minister's designee, a person authorized to
marriages under section 517.18, or a person authorized to practice
and family therapy under section 148B.33.
· The education must include
the use of a premarital inventory and
the teaching of communication and conflict management skills.
· The statement from the
person who provided the premarital education
must be in the following form: "I, [name of educator], confirm that
of both parties] received at least 12 hours of premarital education
included the use of a premarital inventory and the teaching
communication and conflict management skills. I am a licensed
minister, a person authorized to solemnize marriages under
Statutes, section 517.18, or a person licensed to practice marriage
family therapy under Minnesota Statutes, section 148B.33."
Senator Steve Dille of Minnesota has re-introduced a bill
giving a $55
waiver on marriage license fees for couples who take a 12 hour
education course that includes an inventory, communications skills,
conflict management skills. Some of us marriage educators
Minnesota helped to craft the bill, which goes beyond what most
states are considering. We involved the county clerks in the
in order to make it logistically feasible. This year we hope
to get around
Governor Ventura's veto. Stay tuned. The bill can be
"I do not believe that government has a role in marriage
Ventura said in his April 14, 2000 veto message. "This bill is
and increases costs for those who choose not to receive
counseling." Click for rebuttle to VENTURA'S veto.
The Minnesota Legislature is In Session
Published Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Star Tribune
Senate bill would give a break to couples who get premarriage
Premarriage counseling would get you a break, but a breakup
you, under a bill approved by the Senate.
Twelve hours of counseling would save couples $50 on their
licenses, which regularly cost $70. On the flip side, the divorce
fee would go from $122 to $172. The bill passed 58 to 6.
Bill sponsor Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, said his goal is to
marriages while simultaneously cutting down on divorces. Last year,
33,400 couples were married in Minnesota; about 17,450
"Is it a cure-all? Absolutely not," said Sen. Dean Johnson,
Lutheran pastor. "It's just a positive step."
Opponents argued that premarriage counseling is unproven and
divorce fees would be an added burden in an already difficult time.
suggested couples would separate but not divorce.
They wanted to fund the counseling discount with general fund
Dille said that would cost $875,000 per year if half the engaged
take advantage of the program.
Premarital Education Bill: Overview and Response to
State of Minnesota
David H. Olson, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota
"Failing to prepare is like preparing to fail."
1. What is the Premarital Education Bill ?
The proposed Minnesota State law is designed to encourage
planning to marry to take a premarital education program of 12
more. The financial incentive to the couple is that their
license fee would be reduced by $50 so they would pay only $20 for
The 12 hours of premarital education can be provided by a
ordained minister of any religious denomination or a person
practice marriage and family therapist.
The marriage education bill proposed contains the essential
a successful premarital program (Olson & DeFrain, 2000) and
components include the following:
- a discussion of the seriousness of marriage
-take a premarital inventory and receive feedback on it
- learn communication and conflict resolution skills
- discuss the desirability of seeking marital counseling in times
2. What is the rationale for passing a Premarital Education
The ultimate goal of this bill is to help to strengthen marriage
reduce the rate of divorce. With the current rate of divorce
the goal is to improve the quality of marriage so that both people
be more satisfied and less interested in divorce. Even for the 50%
marriages that survive, the quality of some of those marriages may
poor (Popenoe and Whitehead, 1999). An intensive study of
Arond & Pauker (1987) found that 51% of the couples had serious
their marriage would last, 49% felt they had serious marital
42% found their marriage was harder than they thought. A
sociologist, Norval Glenn (1996) found that after ten years of
only 25% of the couples will still be happily married.
Annually about 1.8
million couples marry each year and about 1 million
divorce in the United States. The average length of marriage
that end in divorce is only 7 years and over 1 million children
affected by divorce each year (U. S. Bureau of Census, 1997).
happens as with cages. The birds without despair to get
in and those within despair of getting out." Montaigne
Except for marriage, in no other important area of life do we
you can be successful without having any training. To be successful
career or to even to get a driver*s license, we assume that you
education and training. But people planning to marry falsely assume
just being in love is sufficient to have a successful
we now know that you need be get prepared for marriage just like
for other important aspects of life.
By giving premarital
couples important relationship skills
(communication and conflict resolution) and ways to build on
relationship strengths, couples will be able to get their marriage
a better start. Studies of premarital education programs
demonstrated that the couples have a greater chance for marital
and will less likely divorce (Markman, Stanley & Blumberg,
1996; Bray &
"The dignity of a
vocation is always to be measured by the seriousness
of the preparation for it. How then do we appraise
3. What are the advantages of a good Premarital Education
Ö It can help couples get their marriage off to a better start
help couples build a stronger marriage.
Ö Stronger marriages can reduce the chance of divorce.
Ö It can identify premarital couples who are considered high-risk
divorce who need more intensive counseling before marriage.
Ö It can discourage some premarital couples from getting married.
found with the PREPARE Program that 10-15% of couples who take
program six months to a year before marriage cancel their wedding
(Fowers & Olson, 1986). Preventing a bad marriage is,
thereby, one way
to prevent divorce.
Ö It can help couples learn important relationship skills that they
use to strengthen their marriage over time.
Ö It can motivate couples to see the value of attending future
Ö It can encourage married couples to seek marital therapy if they
ongoing marital problems.
4. What are the possible limitations or risks of the
One possible limitation of the bill is that there is no
these premarital education programs will prevent all divorces.
program is voluntary, many of the couples most needing the programs
not choose this option.
The cost of the premarital program will cost the couple anywhere
to $500, depending on the nature of the program they receive and
provides the program. The least expensive programs are
clergy of various denominations since they provide these programs
service to a couple. Most clergy only charge a fee for the cost of
premarital inventory (about $30). The most expensive programs
provided by marital and family therapists.
Most couples spend more time and money on their wedding that
day than on their relationship, which is intended to last a
is important to put the cost of the premarital education programs
broader perspective. Most couples (and their parents) getting
typically spend between $10,000 to $15,000 for the entire wedding
reception. The flowers alone often cost at least $1,000. It
much wiser for the couple and their parents to put some of the
plan to spend on the wedding into investing in future couple
5. Why should a state care about promoting more stable
First, strong marriages have multiple benefits to individuals
society. Children raised in a two parent home tend to more
stable, more successful in school and more popular with peers
Booth, 1997). Conversely, children of divorce have less academic
and more emotional problems, regardless of their economic or social
(Cherlin, et al., 1998).
Second, when children of divorce become young adults, they have
rate of cohabitation and have more problems in their marriages
in a higher rate of divorce (Amato & Booth, 1997).
Third, couples with a good marriage lead a healthier lifestyle,
longer, have a more satisfying sexual relationship, have more
economic assets than single or divorced people (Waite,1998).
Fourth, the state could save tax payers money by investing in
strong marriages rather than having to support individuals and
after divorce. States currently pay a great deal of money in
child support, court services and other expensive support services
families where there is a divorce.
6. Would taking a Premarital Education Program delay how quickly
couple could get married?
Taking a premarital
education program would not delay marriage for most
couples since they are often engaged for six months to one year
marriage. Couples planning a wedding often need to make
their church and for their wedding party and reception at least
months in advance.
However, taking a premarital program could delay marriage for
couples wanting to marry quickly. This is because the law
hours of premarital education, most programs are spread over
weeks. But delaying marriage can be a positive aspect of this
since many fast marriages are with younger couples that are high
7. Are premarital couples required to take a Premarital
No, this law does not require the premarital education program
is completely voluntary. It is hoped that by having it
than mandated for everyone, couples will have a more positive
about taking advantage of this opportunity.
8. Have other states passed similar legislation and what is the
Florida was the first state to pass similar legislation in 1998
are currently studying the interest in the premarital education
and the impact that they are having on marriage (Ooms, 1999). Many
states are currently considering very similar marriage education
Minnesota has the opportunity now to become a leader in
legislation in the nation.
Arond, M. & Pauker, S. L. (1987) The first year of
marriage. New York:
Amato, P. R. & Booth, A. (1997) A generation at risk:
Growing up in an
era of family upheaval. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Bray, J. H. & Jouriles, E. N. (1995) Treatment of marital
prevention of divorce. Journal of Marital and Family
Cherlin, A. J., Chase-Lansdale, P. L., & Mc Rae, C. (1995)
marital conflict and prevention of divorce. Journal of
Family Therapy, 21, 461-473.
Fowers, B. J. & Olson, D. H. (1986) Predicting marital
PREPARE: A predictive validity study. Journal of Marital and
Therapy, 12, 403-412.
Markman, H., Stanley, S. and Blumberg, S. (1996) Fighting for
marriage. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Olson, D. H. & DeFrain, J. (2000) Marriage and Family:
Strengths. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing.
Ooms, T. (1998a) Strategies to strengthen marriage. Washington,
Family Impact Seminar.
Popenoe, D. & Whitehead, B. D. (1999) The state of our
Bunswick, NJ: National Marriage Project, Rutgers University.
U. S. Bureau of the Census. (1997) Statistical abstract of the
States. (117th edition). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government
Waite, L. (1998) "Why marriage matters." In T. Ooms (Ed.)
strengthen marriage. (pp. 1-22) Washington, DC: Family Impact
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