LANE: Who wrote the book of love? The Florida Legislature – News – Daytona Beach News-Journal Online – Daytona Beach, FL
LANE: Who wrote the book of love? The Florida Legislature
The Legislature wants to make “Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage” required reading, but I’d be more likely to take marital advice from a committee appointed by select heavy-metal bands than a one appointed by the Republican leadership.
Whenever the Florida legislature takes a deep interest in how people live their private lives, I get nervous. Especially when it has a lot of ideas about marriage and divorce.
This is an elected body with a rich history of sexual misbehavior that now is wrestling with cultural shifts of the #MeToo Era and not doing such a great job.
In December, Jack Latvala, Senate appropriations chair and Republican candidate for governor, resigned from the Senate amid charges of misconduct with women who were Senate staffers and lobbyists. Two months before, the Senate’s incoming Democratic leader, Jeff Clemens, had resigned after reports of an extramarital affair with a lobbyist hit the media. And on opening day, two senators, Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, and Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, issued a joint statement owning up to a bipartisan affair and asking forgiveness from their respective spouses.
Yet somehow our legislators feel Floridians don’t take marriage seriously enough and they’re the ones to help.
Sorry, these are precisely the wrong people to appoint themselves as the state’s marriage counselors. I’d be more likely to take marital advice from a committee appointed by a select group of heavy-metal band lead singers than one appointed by the Florida Republican leadership.
Nonetheless, both houses in Tallahassee are considering bills to tack on yet another requirement for getting married in Florida.
Prospective couples would need to read a state-prepared marital advice booklet to be called “The Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage.” It would be written by a committee (uh-oh) that would be appointed by the Speaker of the House, Senate President and governor (all Republicans). It got its second House committee approval Thursday.
In practice, this would be harmless enough. You’d just need to sign a statement saying you read the guide. Prediction: Most couples will treat this with all the seriousness with which they check the boxes saying they’ve read and understood the terms and conditions before downloading a smartphone app.
Still, this bugs me. Florida law already requires that you acknowledge that you’ve read the “Florida Family Law Handbook” before getting married. I signed that statement four years ago although “saw it online” would have been a more precise statement than “read” in the strict sense of the word. My feeling was that I already lived the “Florida Family Law Handbook,” so a close reading was unnecessary.
And if you don’t want to wait out the three-day cooling-off period between application and marriage license, you also have to certify that you took a marriage-preparation course with at least four hours of coursework. Waiting three days and paying an extra $32.50 to avoid this was no problem.
The rationale for adding a new line on the pre-marital things-to-do list is that the state is in the throes of a divorce crisis. But while there is a lot of marital discord in the Capitol, the Florida divorce rate outside of Tallahassee actually is dropping.
The Florida divorce rate was 3.9 per 1,0000 in 2016, according to the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics, down significantly from 7.3 in 1980 and exactly the same as it was back in 1960.
Given the cultural change over that time and on-the-go lifestyle for which our state is renowned and has made the phrase “Florida man” a national punch line, this is a shockingly low number.
And yet legislators still want to write the book of love.
But really there’s nothing to see here. Florida doesn’t have a problem with people getting heedless divorces and quickie marriages. It does have a problem with a legislature full of people who want to form morality panels and create one more form that couples in love need to fill out at the courthouse with their fingers crossed.
How the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A. Can Help
If you, a friend or a family member find themselves in a situation such as this, please call the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A. at 305 670-3330 right away. Scott A. Ferris, Esq. is a licensed family law attorney who has been practicing law since 1987. He is available whenever you need him to defend your rights. Please learn about our firm at www.FerrisLawFirm.com.
Republished by the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A.