This project was designed to be a short-term policy review. Given the time and budget limitations, it utilizes secondary research. We did not conduct a survey or make site visits. Our main research activities included an expert panel meeting, a broad-based Internet search, and follow-up telephone calls to sources. While the report was reviewed by a number of members of the expert panel,1 it did not undergo systematic review by the states.
Expert Panel Meeting. Our first task was to determine which policy areas to include in the study. To aid in this effort, The Lewin Group and ASPE convened a panel of marriage policy experts in early August to brainstorm about marriage issues. (A list of panelists is included in Attachment B.) The meeting served two purposes: (1) to discuss potential state policy areas that promote and support marriage that might be examined during the project; (2) to identify potential data sources for state policies that encourage or support marriage. This discussion clarified ASPE’s intent to focus on policies directly affecting marriage, but not on the many policies that may indirectly affect marriage. Following the discussion, ASPE selected nine topics for inclusion in the study:
- Campaigns, commissions and proclamations
- Divorce laws and procedures
- Marriage and relationship preparation and education
- State tax policies
- State transfer policies
- State vital statistics
- Marriage support and promotion
- Youth education and development
- Specialty programs
The definition of state policy that is used in this report includes proclamations, commissions, and programmatic initiatives with state-wide effects or implications that are initiated by executive or judicial action or are proposed and/or passed by the state legislature.
Research. Our primary research tools were published compilations of state laws or proposals by research or advocacy groups, internet sites, and telephone conversations with experts.
A number of organizations have compiled information about state marriage activities. Expert panelists linked us with documents from their affiliated organizations, including the National Governors’ Association, the American Public Human Services Association, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and the American Bar Association. Our second line of inquiry was a web search. Some sites were recommended by panelists, including Smart Marriages (smartmarriages.com) and Americans for Divorce Reform (divorcereform.org). Additionally, we scanned websites to research organizations involved in social policy, including the Brookings Institution, the Welfare Information Network, Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council and the Alan Guttmacher Institute. We also explored links with interest groups in targeted areas such as fatherhood (e.g., the National Fatherhood Initiative) and abstinence education. Finally, we followed up with telephone calls. Again, the expert panel was a key resource that suggested names and provided comments on specific issues.
What follows is a compilation of state policies, including current statutes and legislation that has been introduced. When available, the status of the bill is included (e.g., passed the House, died in committee). It is important to note that introduction of legislation does not ensure passage. Moreover, passage of a bill does not imply funding to implement the particular policy. These bills are being provided as examples of what states are proposing in the marriage arena and likely do not comprise an exhaustive list of state initiatives.