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March 24, 2009
By Ashleigh Schmitz
In order to deter increasing divorce rates, the Texas Legislature passed a law that increases the marriage license fee to $60.
However, if engaged couples enroll in a free "Twogether in Texas" premarital education seminar, that fee is waived.
The law and the Twogether in Texas program both went into effect Sept. 1. The program not only waives the $60 fee for marriage licenses, but also the 72-hour waiting period. The waivers apply when couples show the certificate received upon completion of an eight-hour premarital education class.
"The Texas Legislature started looking at how costly divorce is for the state and started looking at alarming statistics of how high the divorce rate is and they started talking about how to decrease divorce rates and promote healthy marriages," said Kate Bean, graduate assistant in the School of Social Work.
In 2004, the Texas recorded 178,500 marriages and 81,324 divorces. In 2008, McLennan County alone recorded 1,925 marriages and 1,299 divorces. The marriage breakdown costs taxpayers $2.96 billion in Texas, mostly for single-parent families that receive support by the state.
The Texas Legislature plans for the Twogether in Texas program to reduce the divorce rate and monetary burden on taxpayers.
Dr. Cynthia Harr, assistant professor in the School of Social Work, said research supports that at least eight hours in one of these seminars make a significant difference in whether a marriage will end in divorce.
While the School of Social Work and Center for Family and Community Ministries plan to schedule three premarital education seminars before the end of the semester, the first one at Baylor was held Saturday. Other dates are to be announced this week.
"Premarital education causes couples caught up in the excitement of the wedding to really pause and consider their marriage, not just the wedding," Bean said.
"I think these classes promote couples to look deeper and know each other better so that there is a strong healthy foundation there to sustain a long healthy union," she said.
Another incentive for couples is receiving a membership card for the Texas Hitchin' Post. Their Web site, http://www.texashitchinpost.com, allows couples to receive discounts on things for their wedding ranging from florists, photographers and bridal gowns to deals on home warranties through real estate brokers.
Derek Johnson, director of operations and design for Lone Star Marketing, the firm that does marketing for Texas Hitchin' Post and Twogether in Texas, said that the success of Twogether in Texas will be more couples entering into marriage with the desire to be married as well as the 'know how' of staying married.
Bean and Harr said they plan to bring these classes to Baylor because the community here has the largest number of engaged or seriously dating couples in the McLennan County area. Of the 81 curricula approved by the Texas, Bean and Harr chose the "Within Our Reach" and "Prepare, Enrich" curricula for Baylor. Both curricula are connected to research being conducted by Baylor and Texas Tech universities.
"'Within Our Reach' teaches the listener-speaker method of communication," Bean said. "It's a very simple form of communication that should be common sense. It teaches you to slow down and really listen to what your partner is saying."
In addition to communication skills, Harr said the classes also teaches couples problem-solving skills and how to handle stress.
"We've talked to the Student Senate and Panhellenic Council and they are aware of it, but we're especially interested in making the student body aware of it," Harr said. "We want to make the seminars available on campus."