State Policies to Promote Marriage. J. 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 had an activity in at least one of the three areas. (Table 12 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.(74) This represents an increase from 11 states in 1986.(75) 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. Although the respite programs listed below do not necessarily have an explicit marriage component, their intention is to allow parents to time to themselves and away from home — luxuries that can help reduce possible stress associated with raising special-needs children. 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. Four states(76) 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.

Exhibit 2: States That Have Proposed or Enacted Policies to Promote Marriage

Activity Definition States with Activities (Law or Bill)
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, MT, 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, NM, 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 States(77)
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, VA, 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. AK, AZ, CA, 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, MI, 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, OR, RI, VT, WI
State Marriage Penalty Married couples may face a marriage penalty because the state tax is a percentage of the federal liability or joint and single returns are similar. GA, KS, MD, NJ, NM, ND, OH, OK, RI, SC, VT, WV
TANF Eligibility, Two-parent Families Elimination of the work history and 100-hour rules. 33 States(78)
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
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 States(79)
Expanded Medicaid Eligibility States have increased income and asset disregards and/or 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 SCHIP. AZ, CA, MN, NJ, OR, RI, WA, WI
Marriage Data Statistics on marriage 47 States(80)
Divorce Data Statistics on divorce 46 States(81)
Improvement Efforts   GA, HI, IA, MA, NJ, OK, RI, SD, 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 States(82)
Respite Programs for Parents of Children with Disabilities Statewide programs that offer family support services such as day care and counseling. 43 States(83)
Programs for Incarcerated Parents Statewide programs target both men and women leaving prison for parenting and family reunification services. CT, DC, ID, PA