Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2019 / 13:30 pm
States that require some form of marriage preparation see lower rates of divorce, a new study has shown.
About half of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce, a figure which only climbs with every subsequent marriage. However, a recent study from the Institute for Family Studies has shown that there are an estimated 14,785 fewer divorces in 2016 thanks, in part, to state-mandated premarital counseling.
Presently, 10 states have laws on the books that require couples undergo marriage counseling.
In 1998, Florida became the first state to enact such a policy, followed by Oklahoma, Maryland, Minnesota, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and, most recently, Utah, which passed its law in 2018. These laws either require or incentivize premarital counseling by offering a discounted or free marriage license, and permit both religious and non-religious counseling.
In states that did enforce premarital counseling requirements, the IFS found that divorce rates were about 0.5 to 1.5 percent lower than states with no such requirements. The study’s author noted that the statistics could be underestimating the programs’ effectiveness.
“While this may seem like a small effect, note that the divorce-reduction effect is measured for all marriages, including those that began before the premarital education policies were implemented,” said Tiffany Clyde, the author.
“In other words, most marriages measured by the divorce rate could not be ‘treated’ because the policy was not in place when they married. So, the divorce-reduction effect of the policy is likely underestimated,” she said.
While the results show that these programs contribute to positive results, the Institute for Family Studies also found that many states either did not effectively enforce them, or ended funding to enforce them after only a few years. Clyde posited that couples who married after the policies went into effect will likely show even lower rates of divorce then the general results.