The cost of getting married in Texas is going up Sept. 1.
But couples who complete an eight-hour pre-marital class will enjoy a steep discount.
Under a state law going into effect next month, the state’s portion of the marriage license fee is doubling to $60, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. But the fee will be waived for couples who complete the pre-martial class - and they will also be allowed to forgo the 72-hour waiting period to be get married.
Counties will be permitted to continue charging $12 in local fees.
The Brown County Clerk’s office has made plans to comply with the law, and last week was awaiting further paperwork that will facilitate the waived fee, according to Sharon Ferguson in the county clerk’s office.
She said the fee charged to couples filing a marriage license this month is $42. Beginning in September, the fee will increase to $72 if the course has not been completed. But couples who present the certificate indicating they have taken an approved course will pay only $12.
“It’s a small incentive for those couples planning to get married to consider the significance of what they’re doing,” Suzanne Perkins of the non-profit Texas Family Institute in Abilene said. “In fact, one of the sessions the classes will be studying is ‘How To Avoid Marrying a Jerk.’”
Texas Family Institute holds the contract with the state to administer the classes in a 30-county region that includes Brown County, but also covers Wichita Falls, Snyder and Paducah. It is one of 12 regional intermediaries chosen for statewide “Twogether In Texas” healthy marriage initiative.
According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the healthy marriage initiative in Texas is intended to promote free, skills-based marriage education and provide couples with the tools they need to manage the challenges inherent in relationships. Research has shown that couples who receive relationship education have more stable relationships, which increase favorable outcomes not only for themselves, but also for their children.
“It’s an exciting thing, but it is a big project,” Perkins said.
Classes will focus on communication skills, conflict resolution and the elements of a healthy marriage. They are designed to benefit couples who are seriously dating or engaged to marry as well as those married for any length of time.
The Family Services Center in Brownwood will provide classes for couples in Brown, Coleman, Comanche and Eastland counties.
“It’s a recognition by the state that many couples don’t enter marriage advisedly,” Doak Givan, executive director of Family Service Center, said. “Marriage is important to Texans, and there’s a lot of research to support the need for counseling before getting married. Of course, we’re not going to tell people to stay in a marriage no matter what. A bad marriage can be worse than a divorce for everyone. But it’s going to be a great, great class.”
Givan said and he and another member of the staff will be leading the initial classes, but others are being lined up to conduct them. They include a number of pastors and ministers who have expressed an interest.
“They can be faith-based and still get a certificate,” Givan said.
Perkins said by September, the state will launch a new Web site for couples, www.TwogetherinTexas.com, that will provide information on the program along with contacts for reserving a place in classes throughout the state.