State Policies to Promote Marriage. Preliminary Report.. Specialty Programs


Finally, we examined marriage initiatives within several identified specialty programs. We examined professional development efforts for marriage and family therapists, respite programs for parents of children with disabilities, and programs for incarcerated parents. Every state, except the District of Columbia, had an activity in at least one of the three areas. (Table 11 in the detailed matrices provides additional information on policies.)

Professional development. State license and certification laws for marriage and family therapists can help the public identify qualified therapists. According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, therapists who obtain a license or certificate have met high educational and clinical experience criteria. As of 2001, 44 states regulated marriage and family therapists through a licensing or certification board. This represents an increase from 11 states in 1986.54 In addition to therapists, marriage educators offer services to couples and individuals. Three states (Maryland, Minnesota, Utah) require or propose to require qualifications for those who teach marriage education. Other states do not regulate educators.

Respite programs for parents of children with disabilities. Special-needs children can put a strain on a marriage. Respite programs offer family support services, such as day care and counseling. Respite programs are offered by 43 states. Most offer services to any parent with a disabled child. For example, in North Carolina, Albemarle Health Care provides in-home or facility based care by trained nurses at a parent’s request. The Oklahoma marriage initiative recognizes that families with disabled children have high divorce rates so included respite services as part of the initiative. The Texas Children with Special Health Care Needs program provides respite, specialized day care, counseling and home modifications that aim to help families care for children with disabilities.

Programs for incarcerated parents. Programs target both men and women leaving prison for parenting and family reunification services. Six states55 have statewide programs for incarcerated parents. Idaho, for instance, uses TANF funds for family stabilization services for families with a previously incarcerated individual. Pennsylvania’s fatherhood program targets incarcerated and paroled fathers to help them make the transition to their families. Marriage is approached as the best environment in which to raise children. In the District of Columbia, the Prison Fellowship Ministries offer seminars to prisoners and their spouses to learn how to work through marital problems.

Activity Definition States with Activities
(Law or Bill)
Exhibit 2: States That Have Proposed or Enacted Policies to Promote Marriage
State Campaigns Media campaigns to promote marriage and curb divorce rates. AZ, AR, NM, OK
Commissions Summits that focus on strengthening marriage; commissions charged with implementing specific policies. AZ, LA, MI, SC, UT
Proclamations Statements recognizing the importance of marriage as a public good and foundation of healthy families. LA, NC, UT
Modifications to No-fault Laws Laws that make divorce more difficult by requiring mutual consent. AZ, CA, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, TX, VA, WA, WV
Covenant Marriage Typically requires pre-marital counseling, an agreement to seek additional counseling if marital problems arise, and 2-year waiting period for divorce. AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, GA, IN, IA, KS, LA, MD, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, OH, OK, OR, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WV, WI
Mandatory Education Education for couples with children on the effects of divorce on children. AK, AZ, AR, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, IA, KS, KY, MD, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NH, NM, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WI
Presumption of Joint Legal Custody States that have a presumption or strong preference in favor of joint legal custody. 47 States56
Waiting Periods before Divorce Minimum periods between date of filing for divorce and date court grants divorce. AL, AZ, AR, CA, GA, IL, IN, IA, LA, MA, MO, NE, OK, OR, SC, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WY
Different Laws for Couples with Children Laws that treat couples with children differently, such as mandatory education, no-fault modifications or increased waiting periods. AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, IL, IA, KS, KY, MD, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NH, NM, OK, PA, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WI
Mediation Initiatives Mediation, offered through the courts, generally addresses custody and visitation issues. CA, DC, IA, KS, MO, NM, UT, WI
Incentives for Marriage Preparation Activities, such as license fee reductions, for those who participate in education or counseling. AZ, AK, FL, IL, IA, MD, MI, MN, NM, OK, SD, TN
State Funding for Marriage Support Use of TANF or other funds to encourage couples to participate in marriage preparation activities. AZ, MI, OK, TX, UT, WI
Marriage Education for Adults Suggested or required education, often within the context of license fee reductions, marriage waiting period reductions. AK, AZ, CA, CT, FL, IL, IN, IA, KS, MD, MN, MS, NM, OK, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI
Remarriage Waiting Periods Minimum time must elapse between the date a divorce is granted and filing for remarriage. AL, OK, TX, WI
State EITC The federal Earned Income Tax Credit reduces federal taxes and provides a wage supplement for low-income working families. States have enacted EITCs to reduce the burden of state taxes on working families. CO, DC, IL, IA, KS, ME, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NY, OK, OR, RI, VT, WI
Tax Threshold for Families For the 43 states with an income tax, the income threshold at which married-couple families begin paying taxes is higher than the threshold at which single-parent families begin paying. 39 states57
State Marriage Penalty States either do not have a flat tax (regardless of income of filing status); tax brackets for married couples are not double the size of brackets for individual filers; married couples cannot pay taxes on separate incomes as if single. GA, KS, ME, MD, MN, NE, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, Oh, OK, OR, RI, SD, VT, WV, WI
Medicaid Eligibility Based Solely on Financial Circumstances States cover two-parent families to the same extent as single-parent families by eliminating the recent work history and “100-hour” rules. 36 States58
Medicaid Eligibility, Expanded Disregards States have increased income and asset disregards and increased coverage through Section 1115 waivers. AZ, CA, DE, DC, HI, ME, MN, MO, MT, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, TN, VT, WA, WI, WY.
Medicaid Eligibility, Pregnant Women Raise the income eligibility for pregnant women above 185 percent of poverty. AK, CA, DE, DC, GA, IL, IA, ME, MD, MA, MN, RI, VT
Expanded Health Care Coverage, Two-parent Families. States cover parents through state-funded programs or CHIP. AZ, CA, MN, NJ, RI, WI
TANF Eligibility, Two-parent Families Elimination of the work history and 100-hour rules. AL, AK, AR, CO, CT, DE, FL. HI, ID, IL, IA, KS, LA, MD, MI, MN, MT, NE, NV, NJ, MN, NY, NC, OH, RI, SC, TX, UT, VT, VA, WV, WI, WY
Marriage Incentives, TANF States can disregard income of a new spouse for specified time, provide an incentive payment to monthly benefit, offer child care/health benefits to low-income mothers who marry. AL, ME, MN, MS, NJ, ND, OK, TN, WA, WV
Marriage Promotion, TANF State workers actively promote marriage to TANF participants. OK
Child Support Arrearage Forgiveness Child support arrearages owed to the state by non-custodial parents are forgiven if parents reunite. TN, VT
Marriage Data   31 States
Divorce Data   29 States
Improvement Efforts   AL, GA, HI, IA, NJ, OK, VT
Home Visitation Programs A nurse or other professional is sent into the home of targeted families to offer numerous services including marriage or relationships education or skills HI, NC, OK, UT,
Mentoring, Education, and Counseling Programs that aim to strengthen families, including communications skills, anger management, mentoring of at-risk families. AL, AZ, MI, OK, OR, UT
Fatherhood Programs States are seeking to reunify families by incorporating a marriage component into statewide fatherhood initiatives. FL, MS, PA, TX, VA
School-based Marriage Education Statewide marriage education in schools. AZ, FL, NH, NM, PA, SC, SD, UT, WI
Abstinence-until-marriage Education States include the message as part of sex education programs, Title V Section 510 programs enacted as part of the 1996 welfare reform law, and as media campaigns. AL, AZ, GA, HI, IL, IN, IA, MD, MA, MI, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, OK, OR, SC, TN, VA
Professional Development State regulates marriage and family therapists 44 States59
Respite Programs for Parents of Children with Disabilities Statewide programs that offer family support services such as day care and counseling. 43 States60
Programs for Incarcerated Parents Statewide programs target both men and women leaving prison for parenting and family reunification services. AR, CT, DC, FL, ID, PA