Bills target Utahns considering marriage, divorce

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are considering two bills aimed at helping couples who plan to marry and those contemplating divorce.

Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, plans to introduce a bill today that gives people planning to marry an incentive to go through at least three hours of counseling before they get a marriage license. He tells the Standard Examiner his bill aims to help people understand the challenges ahead -- money, solving problems, commitment.

Under the plan, any couple that presents a certificate proving they received premarital counseling will pay $20 for a marriage license. Without a certificate the license would costs $65. Currently a marriage license in Utah costs $50.

Marriage License Proposal
  • With premarital counseling - $20
  • Without counseling - $65
  • Currently - $50

The measure requires couples to wait three days after applying before they actually get the marriage license. Generally, therapists have advised that waiting is a good thing.

Julie Hanks, a licensed clinical social worker at Wasatch Family Therapy, told KSL last fall, "I think it's really wise to wait to get married and not rush into it, and also wait to get divorced and not rush into that, too. There are so many skills and insights relationally and emotionally that people can learn. They don't know that it's available out there."

Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, wants to change divorce law. Currently, divorcing couples must take an orientation course before the divorce is finalized. Nielson's bill, HB 290, requires a person who wants to file for divorce to take the course before filing. The respondent would have to take the course within 30 days of the divorce filing.

The bill allows some exemptions, including cases of domestic violence and couples who have taken the class, gotten back together and then ultimately decided to divorce.

The House Health and Human Services Committee approved the bill Wednesday. It now goes to the full House.

Meanwhile, a survey of more than 5,000 singles shows almost 40 percent of those 21 and older are not sure if marriage is right for them.

Additionally, 27 percent said they do not want to get married and 34 percent said they do want marriage.

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