Seven States Honored For Helping Children and Families
Children's Rights Council
Washington, D.C.
July 19, 2020

Florida:  Most Innovative Law Before Marriage

Florida enacted legislation offering couples reduced prices for marriage licenses if they participate in a four-hour pre-marital counseling session.Those who take the course, which has been developed by Florida State University, will get a $32.50 break on the cost of a marriage license, which now costs $88.50.Although couples will have the option of paying full price, they will not be able to merely get a marriage license that easily.The law requires a three-day “cooling off” period before couples who refuse to take the course can tie the knot.

We also commend Florida for requiring, in the same law, that divorcing couples with minor children take a four-hour divorce education course.It also requires that marriage and relationship skill-based education be included in the “life management” class already taught in high school.

The Florida Marriage Preparation and Preservation Act (741.0305) has influenced other states, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, to introduce similar legislation.

California:  Best Approach During Marriage and for Divorce

The Center for Families, Children & The Courts, of the Judicial Council of California has a nationally recognized research program that conducts large-scale longitudinal and representative studies on court connected mediation (conciliation), court clients, and client feedback.These studies, representing 14,000 clients to date, indicate that court-connected mediation programs have grown considerably over the past 13 years and that the large majority of clients are satisfied with the services.
California law (Family Code 3170) requires that parents must go through mediation prior to the court hearing when there is a dispute over child custody and access (visitation).The largest studies (the “Snapshot Studies”) were conducted by collecting data from 75 or more of California’s 82 branch courts and their clients.Findings are published about the clients’ employment, ethnicity, age, but more importantly, they consistently indicate that court-connected mediations were productive, covered many pertinent issues and that most clients rated the experience favorably.Parents with child custody and access (visitation) disputes have widespread satisfaction with the court-connected mediation programs as alternative resolution processes and the resulting agreements.Many of the reports can be accessed through the Judicial Council’s website at Table 1.)

Marriage Counselors

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, distribution of marriage and family therapists varies considerably across the states.California has over 73 marriage and family therapists per 100,000, which surpasses the rate in any other state. The rates range from under three per 100,000 resident population in West Virginia, Delaware, Ohio, North Dakota, Louisiana, and Arkansas to more than 20 per 100,000 in Oklahoma, Indiana, Texas, Nevada.Generally, more states in the West and the Northeast have rates over 10 marriage and family therapists per 100,000 population.The national average is 17.6 marriage and family therapists per 100,000 population.
The reason why having the most marriage and family therapists is important is that it provides more access to professionals by married couples who want to learn how to keep their marriages together.
In 1963, California was the first state to license marriage and family therapists, and an extensive infrastructure of 77 schools and universities with Marriage and Family Conciliation Court programs has developed in the state.
"Mediation" means a process in which a neutral person or persons facilitate communication between the disputants to assist them in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.

Montana, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Connecticut:  The Best States for Shared Parenting

The best states for shared parenting, according to the United States National Center for Health Statistics are Montana, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Connecticut.Montana ranked first, with a high 55.4% of separating and divorced parents having shared parenting (physical joint custody). Kansas followed very closely with 53.3% of shared parenting.Wisconsin has also been successful with shared parenting with 49.1%. And lastly Connecticut has 41.2% of shared parenting.All four states have made major progress in ensuring that children have frequent and continuous contact with both parents, absent a good reason not to. (Various states percentages are given in Table 2.)

Divorce Rate Expected to Drop as Shared Parenting Increases

The states with the greatest amount of physical joint custody in 1989 and 1990 had the greatest decline in the divorce rate in the subsequent years 1991 through 1995, according to CRC's analysis of data from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics. (See Tables 3 and Table 4.)CRC believes this is because if a parent knows he or she will have to interact with the other parent while the child is growing up, there is less incentive to divorce.  For relevant research click here.

CRC predicts that based on current trends, the divorce rate in the U.S. will be reduced by 10 percent within the next 20 years.The divorce rate, which has dipped slightly in the past few years from its high of 50 percent of all marriages, will drop further because of the rapid rise of shared parenting, and the greater involvement of fathers in children’s lives.

Shared Parenting means that a child spends at least a third of the time on a yearly basis with each parent.


Oklahoma: Most Innovative Law in the Event of Separation 

Oklahoma has passed a Parenting Act that allows children to have frequent and continuous contact with both parents from the time of the first court hearing, if either parent asks for it.
This may be the first time in any state that substantial time-sharing is established from the time of the first hearing.
The statue (H.B. 1313, passed in 1999 session) states, “It is the policy of this state to assure that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interests of their children and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.”
“To effectuate this policy, if requested be a parent, the court shall provide substantially equal access to the minor children to both parents at a temporary order hearing, unless the court finds that such shared parenting would be detrimental to such child.”