Divorce doesn’t just affect your personal, emotional and social lives. It also affects your finances. When people split up, their incomes don’t instantly increase, but they suddenly need twice as much housing. These costs are often often accompanied by increases in health insurance and other major expenses.
The result is that divorce has financial consequences that impact the whole society. According to Fortune magazine, divorce costs Florida’s citizens over $1 billion every year. That’s the reason Florida lawmakers cite for the recent introduction of a new bill. If passed, it would force couples to read a guide to “healthy marriages” before they could get their marriage licenses. But is required reading really the answer?
What to expect from the guidebook
As ABC reports, Florida lawmakers would create a Marriage Education Committee. This committee would consist of six “marriage education and family advocates.” It would be their job to create a book that teaches couples how to deal with marital issues like communication, conflict, parenting and finances.
The bill would also force couples to read the book before they could get a marriage license. Or they must, at least, sign a statement swearing that they read it.
Could the guidebook help? Fortune says that six states already have similar guidebooks, and the divorce rate has dropped in each of those states. But the divorce rate has also dropped nearly everywhere else. Only two states—Arkansas and North Dakota—have rising divorce rates.
What opponents say
The bill has already come under fire from inside and outside of the government:
- One representative claimed, “There is 0% chance this healthy marriage guide will be inclusive.” He doubted it would pay any attention to the LGBTQ and other minority communities.
- Other lawmakers would prefer the government doesn’t get more involved in people’s private lives.
- One of the authors of Alabama’s guidebook cautioned against going too far. She said Alabama’s guidebook is not required reading. She also noted there are situations in which divorce is the right choice. Adults and children tend to do better when freed from abusive or high-conflict marriages.
These are the concerns about the guide’s content, but Fortune recorded other concerns, too. Some residents said they’d rather see lawmakers find other ways to help families.
Financial planning for your new life
There is one thing that the bill’s introduction makes clear. Divorce has a profound financial impact on those who get divorced. People who get divorced carry their individual incomes into new lives with extra expenses. It’s important that they are treated fairly during property division. They need to set clear goals and make solid plans to reach them.