Should Legislators Try To Reduce High Divorce Rates With New Laws?

The “sanctity” of marriage has taken quite a blow in recent years as marriage rates fall and divorce rates increase. That’s why one Jacksonville representative, Clay Yarborough (R-Florida) wants to pass a new measure called the “Guide to a Healthy Marriage.” According to his description, the new action is meant to reduce high divorce rates while saving the taxpayers a few bucks per year.

But is that really the case?

The “Guide to a Healthy Marriage” is exactly that: reading material that gives advice and insight that might help a marriage thrive if spouses were to stick to it. The guide teaches potential spouses about expectations, communication, conflict management, parenting, and how to deal with domestic disputes. Yarborough wants anyone and everyone who applies for a marriage license in his state to read that guide. 

The guide was written after Governor Ron DeSantis put together an education committee on marriage (notably costing the taxpayers a few bucks per year). Or not — according to Yarbourough, the measure would be paid for with “private funds.” Whatever that means.

Yarbourough said, “Promoting healthy marriages and families in Florida should be a priority for all of us. When the bill was filed previously, groups came forward who supported the idea of additional information to go alongside the Florida Family Law Handbook.

“Since 1998 and continuing today under current law, acknowledgment by couples that access was provided to the handbook is a prerequisite to receiving a marriage license in Florida. The Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage would be made available as additional information, not to be mandated.”

An American Community Survey conducted from 2013 to 2017 found that an average of 11.67 people out of a 1,000 and over the age of 15 were divorced each year in the country. But Florida has one of the highest divorce rates in the United States. South Pasadena has the highest, for example, at 22.3 percent. 

This measure has been up for debate before, and has yet to find a willing sponsor in the Florida Senate.

Yarborough continued, “A number of bills do not make it through the process the year they are first filed. This is an important priority and I will be pushing hard to get it through the process…The majority of [the handbook] centers around child-related issues after divorce, how courts divide assets and liabilities, and the steps to take to end a marriage. In an effort to provide a balance, the FL Guide to a Healthy Marriage will focus on elements not expanded upon in the handbook.”