The cost of getting married in Texas is about to go up

License fee to almost double come Sept. 1, unless couples take marital education class

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

August 18, 2008 - If you're planning to get married in the coming months, it's going to cost nearly twice as much after Sept. 1.

Well the marriage license will, anyway; the wedding arrangements are up to you.

But the going rate for the license will almost double to $72 in Hopkins County and the rest of Texas on Sept. 1. Those couples on a tight budget, however, have a way to cut the cost down to $12.

The state is offering to waive the $60 state portion of the marriage license fee to those willing to pass an 8-hour marital education class.

The measure is being taken to reduce the high divorce rate and promote the physical, emotional and financial benefits of long-term marriages.

According to Jason Greene, project director with Region 4 of Twogether In Texas, as of 2004 there were 178,511 marriages in Texas. At the same time, 83,324 divorces affected 62,380 children in Texas.

In Region 4, which covers Hopkins County and a large section of North and East Texas, there were 8,943 marriages and 4,443 divorces recorded in 2006.

Greene said data shows that staying married benefits the couple's emotional and physical health as well as their children, who are more likely to succeed in a two-parent household and are less likely to fall prey to violence, drugs or become teen parents.

The class is all part of HB 2685 which offers the incentive as a means to improve physical and mental health, according to Greene, who stresses the course is an education class designed to inform and get couples talking about issues in hopes of preventing future problems. It is not a counseling session for those already in trouble.

The marital education course can be taken free through one of the state contractors or subcontractors.

Couples may also opt to take a marital course from a religious official or business, civic organization or other group, provided it meets state guidelines. In order to qualify for the $60 state marriage license fee exemption, the class must meet state curriculum, which addresses communication and conflict resolution and is at least eight hours long.

A website is being constructed that will offer more information, including who offers the courses in the area and contact information. The "Twogether In Texas" web site should be fully functional by the time the new law goes into effect on Sept. 1, Greene said.

The state-funded classes must use secular, qualifying curriculum. Non-state funded providers can use faith-based curriculum and can charge a fee, but must register their organization and curriculum with their regional center, headquartered at Longview Wellness Center. Non-state fund providers can be pastors, clergy, community organizations, counselors or anyone certified in a recognized premarital curriculum, but they, too, must be listed on the "Twogether In Texas" website.

Anyone interested in becoming a course provider may contact Jason Greene at the "Twogether In Texas" office at the Longview Wellness Center at 903-553-1550 or 1-877-588-5278 or send an e-mail to jgreene@longviewwellness.org.

Once couples complete the class, the provider can log onto the website and print a certificate with their names on it and a certificate number. Couples can then take the "Twogether in Texas" certificate of completion to their county clerk's office when applying for their marriage license and receive the discount. Of course, the class is open to all couples who are interested in taking it, not just those looking for a license discount. The certificate is good for one year from the date its issued.

Couples planning to take the class for the discount are encouraged to sign up and get it done in advance of applying for their marriage license, as it is an 8-hour class and may be held over a series of days or weeks depending on the provider.

Another benefit of taking the class outlined is that those who take the marital education class and obtain their certificate can have the 72-hour waiting period waived after Sept. 1. The only others allowed to do that are members of the United States armed forces on active duty, those working for the U.S. Department of Defense as either an employee or under contract with the department, and those who obtain a written waiver.

For more information about HB 2658 and the marriage education class, contractors and subcontractors who offer the class or "Twogether in Texas," contact Greene or Mark English, subcontractor coordinator for Region 4, at menglish@longviewwellness.org, or call 1-877-LUV-LASTs (1-877-588-5278). Since the website is still being set up, the address is yet to be available.

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