• July/August 2004
  • Vol. 5, No. 6

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States Work to Strengthen Marriages

The increased interest by the Federal Government in strengthening marriages and supporting two-parent families has led to a wide variety of policy changes and activities at the State level since 2001. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) recently compiled these State activities into a report, Beyond Marriage Licenses: Efforts in States to Strengthen Marriage and Two-Parent Families. This report provides an overview of these efforts, as well as State-by-State snapshots of specific programs and policies.

The State activities fall under four categories:

  • Policy initiatives, commissions, and campaigns (e.g., media campaigns to promote marriage or discourage divorce)
  • Changes in marriage or divorce laws (e.g., marriage license fee reduction for couples who participate in marriage preparation)
  • Programs, activities, and services (e.g., marriage education for adults and for high school students)
  • Policy changes related to marriage and two-parent families in TANF and child support (e.g., elimination of stricter eligibility requirements for families with two parents).

Overall results show that every State has made at least one policy change or introduced at least one activity to strengthen marriage or two-parent families or to reduce divorce. Some of the more notable findings include:

  • Thirty-six States have revised their TANF eligibility rules to treat one- and two-parent households the same.
  • Public officials or legislatures in nine States have declared that strengthening marriage is a public goal.
  • Forty States have government-funded programs that provide couples- or marriage-related services in limited areas.
  • Eight States have made significant changes to their marriage and divorce laws.

Specific State activities are described in the State-by-State Profiles in Part Two of this report. Appendixes provide a summary of State activities in a chart format and key contacts in the seven States with highest marriage promotion activity (Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia).

The full report, which was supported in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, can be downloaded from the CLASP website at www.clasp.org/publications/beyond_marr.pdf.

Related Items

Children's Bureau Express explored the topic of strengthening marriages in the following articles:

  • "New Studies Show Marriage Improves Living Standards for Children" (December 2002/January 2003)
  • "Strengthening Couples, Marriages in Low-Income Communities" (May 2002)
  • "Study Shows Changing Welfare Can Strengthen Families" (July 2000)

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