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Senator Baxley, District 12 — Press Release


November 5, 2019

CONTACT: Matt McClain, 850-487-5012

Senator Dennis Baxley and Represenatative Clay Yarborough File Legislation to Combat Rising Cost of Divorce in Florida

Bill would authorize the creation of the Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage

Tallahassee —

Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) and Representative Clay Yarborough (R-Jacksonville) accounced today that they have filed SB 684 and HB 319 to combat the rising cost of divorce to Florida’s citizens.

This legislation would create the Marriage Education Committee within the Department of Children and Families, for the purpose of creating the Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage. Current State law requires, as a prerequisite to receiving a marriage license, acknowledgement by couples that they have read either the Florida Family Law Handbook or other marriage-related information. The 19 page handbook offers little positive introduction and instead, 16 of its pages focus on child-related issues after divorce, how the court divides assets and liabilities upon divorce, and the actual steps to take to end a marriage.

“Promoting healthy marriages and families in Florida should be a priority for all of us and is in the public interest”, said Representative Yarborough. “In 2018, half of Florida’s 156,168 marriages ended in divorce or annulment. As a result of family fragmentation, there are significant impacts on women and children and also State taxpayers."

According to a 2008 national study by Benjamin Scafidi at the New York-based Institute for American Values, which evaluated all 50 states, it cost Florida taxpayers $1.9 billion annually due to family fragmentation. The cost to the Florida child welfare system alone was estimated at $181 million and is undoubtedly rising.

The Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage will focus on elements not expanded upon in the Family Law Handbook, such as conflict management, communication skills, family expectations, financial responsibilities, and parenting responsibilities. The bill does not seek to define marriage in any way and the committee is authorized to seek private funds for producing the guide, so that there is no additional cost to tax payers.

Senator Baxley said, “The facts are mounting and the high cost of divorce impacting Florida’s Families in human and public costs must be addressed. This marriage handbook can help Florida Families build healthy families, giving them a guide to build a strong foundation.”