Premarital Preparation Courses: Florida’s Solution to Keeping Couples Married

When a couple has decided to enter into a legal relationship through the act of getting married, there are many decisions that must be made before taking the next step. This is largely due to the fact that when individuals decide to bind themselves together in a shared life, that means determining the where, when, and how they will live their future lives. This could mean deciding on what assets and liabilities are marital, the number of children (if any) the couple would consider, the type of home they would like to make for themselves, among other issues. If you and your significant other are considering marriage, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can help determine any possible issues that may arise once you and your partner have married and possible solutions to deal with these issues.

The “Marriage Preparation and Preservation Act of 1998”

In Florida, as part and parcel of the Marriage Preparation and Preservation Act of 1998, new guidelines and laws were put into place to best preserve the legal relationship of marriage. According to this Act, lawmakers placed into statute an incentive to non-married couples looking to marry for going into premarital counseling before obtaining the marriage license. If a couple decides to go through a premarital prep course for at least four hours, the couple will be able to receive $32.50 off the marriage fee for the marriage license that is required before a couple can legally marry.

Parameters and Requirements of the Premarital Preparation Course

The couple is permitted to go separately or together and must certify that they have completed the course regardless of whether the course was completed through an in-person classroom, a viewing of a video or electronic version of the information, or a combination of these methods. The premarital course should review information that deals with the following:

  • Communication skills,
  • Parenting and children responsibilities,
  • Conflict resolution and management, and
  • Financial management and responsibilities.

For those who decide to go through the premarital counseling session, the following are a list of professionals who are permitted to instruct the couple in the premarital prep course curricula:

  • A licensed, clinical social worker,
  • A licensed psychologist,
  • A licensed family and marriage therapist, or
  • A trained official representative from a religious institution that has received relevant training for premarital instruction.
The Legislative Intent for Incentivizing Premarital Counseling

The legislative intent for these premarital counseling courses is based largely in the understanding that the State of Florida is better off where couples are married and remain married. Florida is interested in marriage because the stability of the marital relationship leads to stronger communities, first and foremost, and economic stability. Increased rates of divorce, which are now part of the popular trend, can have devastating effects not only on the family, but on the State. The State may suffer the burden of a family being split through the continual use of their family and child protective services in the event that domestic violence occurs within the family dynamic.

Additionally, the premarital course is looking to educate couples on the correct way in which to deal with problems that may arise in the average marriage, without letting the issues become larger problems than they actually are. When these tiny problems turn into larger problems, the couple may see divorce as the only way out. Contentious divorces may lead to a backlog of family courts in Florida, which can have significant costs on the State itself.

Overall, there are many financial and societal incentives for keeping couples together and married. Not only can premarital counseling sessions be helpful, but speaking with an experienced family law attorney may help to spot possible issues that may arise and resolve them before they lead to bigger marital problems. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.