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Publication #FAR3002

Marriage Preparation1

Donna Davis2

Figure 1. 
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The state of Florida set a precedent in 1998 when the legislature established the Florida Marriage Preparation And Preservation Act of 1998. Hailed as a model for the nation, the law requires couples to read the Family Law Handbook provided by the Clerk of the Court and gives them the option of taking a four-hour marriage course prior to their nuptials for a discount of $32.50 on their marriage license. The act was approved by the Florida legislature with the intent of helping couples better understand the commitment of marriage and to improve communication skills among couples. The penalty for not taking the course is a three-day waiting period for a marriage license and full price on the fee. The state also mandated high schools to incorporate marriage instruction as part of the existing required life management skills course.

Does marriage preparation work? Most family researchers believe the answer is yes. Premarital education can slow couples down and foster deliberation. It sends a message that marriage matters, it can help couples learn options if they need help later, and, in some cases, it can lower risks for subsequent marital distress or termination.

But critics also argue over the effectiveness of marriage preparation courses, particularly when offered in schools. No one seems to be arguing that premarital education is not a good idea. But debate remains heated about the "wheres, whens, whys and hows" about premarital education.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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This document is FAR3002, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 004. Published November 2007. Revised November 2007. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.