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Utahns planning marriage would face a choice of attending some pre-marriage counseling and/or classes, or paying $45 more for a marriage license under legislation revealed Thursday.
Rep. Dixon Pitcher's HB132 would also require at least a three-day wait to get married after obtaining a license unless the couple underwent that pre-marriage training first.
"This would help young people getting married to learn what they really need to survive," said Pitcher, R-Ogden. "But it's not required."
However, the proposal would put the charge at $20 for a marriage license for a couple that completes pre-marital counseling by an ordained minister or counselor, or who takes an approved class. Otherwise, the license would cost $65 and require a three-day wait for marriage. At least three hours of counseling, or six hours in classes, is required for the discount.
The bill says the classes or counseling should include, as a minimum, such topics as: marital fidelity; effective communication and problem-solving skills, including avoiding violence and abuse; effective financial management; and discussing "any information that could reasonably affect the decision to marry."
Pitcher said the idea came up as he was working on another bill about payday lenders and talked to several newlyweds who did not know how to manage finances or handle conflicts caused by debt. That included one couple where the groom did not tell the bride that he had $21,000 in credit card debt.
"We assume they understand what we understand now [as parents who have been married for years], but they don't," he said. "We'll give them some tools … the tools of conflict resolution … the tools of how to deal with debt … you'll learn how to deal with in-laws."
The bill instructs county clerks and the Utah Commission on Marriage to track and report statistics on how many people attend classes or counseling. It asks the commission to report back in 10 years on whether the program should continue or end.
If marriages do not work out, the Legislature also is looking at a bill that would require people to take another class before they can file for divorce, HB290 by Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful. The state requires such divorce orientation classes now, but they can be completed after filing but before a divorce is final.