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Proud: Give marriage license discount for couples' course
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Proud: Give marriage license discount for couples' course

Price would be cut in half after premarital class

  • Grand Velas Riviera Maya/Flickr

PHOENIX — To motivate couples to learn more about marital issues before tying the knot, a Tucson lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would cut the price of marriage licenses in half if couples take a premarital course covering subjects including conflict management to parenting responsibilities.

Republican Rep. Terri Proud, who is divorced herself, said these classes help keep marriages together and that HB 2217 would give couples a financial reason to take a course.

“There is nothing out there (as) incentive for couples to find out how marriage works before jumping in,” Proud said. “I do wish something like this had been around a few years ago.”

Proud’s bill would require counties to provide a 50 percent discount on marriage licenses for taking a premarital course. A marriage license costs $72 in Maricopa County, for example.

To qualify for the discount, the course have to include instruction on conflict management, communication skills, finances and parenting.

Proud didn’t take a course like the one she is suggesting before she married. But several years ago she took a class through her church to see how they work and came away impressed.

“I wish I would have taken these courses before getting married,” Proud said. “Hopefully it’ll get them to think and develop tools that will help them throughout the years.”

According to a 2009 U.S. Census Bureau report, nearly 11 out of 1,000 men and 12 out of 1,000 women in Arizona reported getting divorced in the previous year. That was slightly higher than the national average.

At least six states have enacted similar laws. In Florida, couples who take a course of at least four hours can have $32.50 taken off the cost of a marriage license. Minnesota provides an $75 discount on licenses for completing a 12-hour premarital course.

Proud’s bill doesn’t specify a length for the course, just that a member of the clergy or marriage counselor certify that the couple sat through a program.

“It’s a great idea, but it’s really hard to get these bills passed,” said Diane Sollee, founder and director of smartmarriages.com, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition dedicated to marriage, family and couples education.

A major reason these bills are difficult to pass, Sollee said, is because counties don’t want to lose any of the revenue they get from licenses, especially during tough economic times.

But, she said, these courses help couples understand the problems they will face in marriage and prepare for the challenges.

Calls to the Arizona Association of Counties seeking comment on the bill weren’t returned by Tuesday evening.

About HB 2217

  • Author: Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson
  • Provision: Would cut cost of marriage license in half if couples take a premarital course.
  • Course requirements: In order to qualify for the deal, the course couples take would have to cover conflict management, communication skills, finances and parenting.
  • Precedent: Several states have similar laws, including Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Texas.
  • Status: Currently not assigned to committee.

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