The “Florida Healthy Marriage Handbook”: Will it help couples stay together?

Dennis Baxley (via Twitter)

In 2018, fewer Floridians got married than the national average and slightly more got divorced, according to a new analysis from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Florida’s marriage rate was 15.7 per every 1,000 women aged 15 or older, compared to a 16.6 rate nationally, the data shows. Florida’s marriage rate in 2018 ranked 36th among the 50 states.

Florida’s divorce rate in 2018 was 8 per every 1,000 women aged 15 or older, compared to a 7.7 rate nationally, the data shows. Florida’s divorce rate ranked 26th among the state, in a tie with Arizona.

Now in an effort to help more Floridians stay married, the 2020 Legislature is moving forward on legislation (SB 682 and HB 319)  that would create the “Florida Healthy Marriage Handbook.”

Before a county court judge or circuit court clerk can issue a marriage license, the couple will have to verify that they have read the handbook or similar material outlining the rights and responsibilities involved in a marriage, the bill says.

“The purpose of this is to get people to discuss such issues as conflict management, communication skills, family expectations, financial responsibility and management, domestic violence resources and parenting responsibilities,” said Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Marion County Republican who is sponsoring the Senate bill.

“All this is, is a guide to get people to discuss these issues that frequently wind up leading to conflict and family fragmentation,” Baxley said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Baxley’s bill in a 4-2 vote last week. It next heads to the Rules Committee. The House bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.