Tennessee Marriage Legislation/Fib starts marriage for some in Shelby - 8/24/02

Smartmarriages ® cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Wed Aug 28 12:33:07 EDT 2002

subject: Tennessee Marriage Legislation/Fib starts marriage for some-8/02

from: Smart Marriages®

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Here's an article about how it is (or isn't) working, followed by
the legislation below.    - diane
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Fib starts marriage for some in Shelby

Claim counseling on form, save $60

By Lela Garlington 
August 24, 2002

A new state law that knocks $60 off the price of a marriage license if a
couple get premarital counseling isn't always producing the intended result.

It may be too easy to get the discount without getting the counseling.

If a couple fill out the form claiming they got the counseling but really
didn't, they face no penalty if they're caught.

Plus, the law requires no one to verify that the counseling actually

"The county clerks can only do what the state law requires" - collect the
forms, said legal consultant Libby McCroskey with the state's county
technical assistance service in Nashville.

"They don't have any authority to do anything beyond that," she said.

The new law went into effect July 4 and was written to make premarital
counseling more attractive.

In Shelby County, for example, marriage licenses cost $37.50 with
certification of counseling and $97.50 without.

Ron Isbell, 52, was married this week but didn't cotton to the higher fee.

The law is so easy to circumvent, he said, that "it's an absolute joke. Only
some slow-minded person would ever have paid the higher fee. I'm not
slow-minded. I got married. I didn't pay mine (the higher fee)."

Barbara Hodges works at the Mall of Memphis in one of the busiest satellite
offices of the county clerk, processing marriage licenses.

She acknowledged she's been suspicious of some couples who have gotten the
form and hours later returned with it filled out.

"We're not a police station," said Hodges. Still, she said, "I can't imagine
anyone starting their marriage off with a lie."

Some couples are reluctantly paying the higher fee. "It's too much money,"
said Harriet Jones, 54, as she and her soon-to-be husband, Charlie Jones,
59, waited this week for a clerk to finish processing the paperwork.

Others are getting the counseling because their church requires it, not
because the state is encouraging it.

"I agree with it (the new law) wholeheartedly. I think we needed it more
than anyone else," said recent newlywed David Fulghum, 44, who is on his
third marriage.

His bride, Dianna Phifer-Fulghum, 52, said she believes an even higher
licensing fee of $150 would encourage more couples to get counseling before

A recent tally out of almost 700 marriage licenses issued in Shelby County
found that seven out of 10 couples saved the extra $60 fee. During the first
five weeks, Mary Nalley, supervisor for the downtown marriage license
office, said 511 couples turned in the premarital counseling form compared
with 187 couples who paid the higher licensing fee.

The extra $60 goes to pay for court-ordered mediation and social programs
aimed at children and families.

While most forms appear to be legitimate with easily recognizable names of
local churches and ministers, an undetermined number are impossible to read.

Local and state officials are hoping people cooperate out of a desire to be
generally law-abiding citizens.

The legislation's sponsor said most small-town county clerks are going to
know the couples getting married. In that atmosphere, "people are going to
know if couples are circumventing the law or not," said state Rep. Bob
Patton (R-Johnson City). He admitted that likely is impossible in cities
such as Memphis.

If a number of county clerks believe it's a problem, Patton said, he'll
consider amending the law during the next legislative session. He doesn't
know how he'll correct the problem or what penalties he may attempt to add.

Patton said Tennessee had about 85,000 marriages and 33,000 divorces in
1999, giving it one of the highest divorce rates in the nation.

Most couples are getting counseling from a minister but a psychologist,
clinical social worker, licensed family therapist, clinical pastoral
therapist, professional counselor or psychological examiner can also do the
To read the summary on line, go to:

But there, it's just like it is here, all in one big unpunctuated paragraph.

Tennessee Marriage Education Legislation: Senate bill 0899
 by *Harper, *Fowler, *Haynes, *Trail. (HB1334 by *Patton, *Walker ,
*Black, *Boyer, *Dunn, *Clem, *Odom, *Kernell, *Turner (Dav), *Bowers,
*Buck, *Turner (Ham), *Overbey, *Arriola, *Hood, *Jones, S., *Caldwell,
*Bone, *Hagood.)  

Marriage - Imposes additional fee of $62.50 for obtaining
marriage license; exempts out-of-state residents and persons who complete
premarital preparation course from payment of $60.00 of such fee.

- Amends TCA Title 36, Chapter 6, Part 4. Fiscal Summary for SB0899  Minimal
Bill Summary for *SB0899 / HB1334 ON JUNE 26, 2001, THE SENATE ADOPTED
rewrites this bill.

Present law requires parents that are parties to legal actions
where a permanent parenting plan will be entered to attend a parent
educational seminar. Present law also authorizes the use of mediation in
child custody cases. The courts are authorized to assign the costs for
parent educational seminars in an equitable manner and to assign mediation
costs as discretionary costs of the legal action. In the case of indigent
persons the costs for seminars and mediation are based upon a sliding scale
and any federal, state or local funds may be used to pay such costs. Prior
to January 1, 2001, county clerks, excepting Davidson County, were required
to collect a $10.00 fee for all marriage licenses to defray the cost of
parenting seminars and mediation. Under present law there is a divorcing
parent education and mediation fund but county clerks are no longer required
to collect the $10.00 fee for marriage licenses. This amendment would
require county clerks to collect an additional $62.50 for a marriage
license. This amendment would exempt marriage license applicants from
payment of $60.00 of that amount if both applicants provide the county clerk
with either: (1) An affidavit or valid driver's license establishing that
they are not Tennessee residents; or (2) A valid and timely certificate of
completion of a premarital course (discussed below). The county clerk would
receive $2.50 of the above fee to pay for the services provided under this
amendment. The remaining $60.00 would be paid to the state treasurer, to be
divided as follows: (1) $28.50 would be directed to the administrative
office of the courts to fund the parenting plan requirements under this
amendment, through the divorcing parent education and mediation fund; (2)
$15.00 would be directed to the department of children's services for child
abuse prevention services; (3) $15.00 would be directed to the office of
criminal justice programs for domestic violence services (which would be in
addition to the privilege tax on marriage licenses); and (4) $1.50 would be
directed to the Tennessee Commission on National and Community Service to
build the capacity of the statewide nonprofit community that offers services
to families and children. This amendment would utilize funds in the
divorcing parent education and mediation fund for parenting plan
requirements, including: (1) Statewide parenting plan coordination; (2)
Creation of a grant process for parenting plan coordinators to serve local
courts with divorce jurisdiction; (3) Costs of court-ordered mediation; (4)
Parenting education programs; and (5) Any related services to resolve family
conflict in divorce and post-divorce matters. The clerks of court with
divorce jurisdiction, or two or more clerks within a county or judicial
district acting jointly could apply to the administrative office of the
courts for funding of local parenting plan coordinators. A local planning
coordinator could be a full or part-time employee or contractor. In awarding
such grants, the administrative office of the courts would consider divorce
caseloads within the jurisdiction to be served, availability of funds, and
the desirability of providing each judicial district with access to an
appropriate level of funding for parenting plan coordination. By August 1,
2001, the administrative office of the courts would make funds available for
local parenting plan coordinators, costs of court-ordered mediation,
parenting education programs, and any related services to resolve family
conflict in divorce and post-divorce matters. The local parenting plan
coordinators would be responsible for: (1) Assisting parents with completion
of the parenting plan requirements and locating parenting education
providers and mediators; (2) Assisting the court with tracking the
attendance of parents at education seminars and mediations, and determining
the filing of necessary papers to complete the divorce or post-divorce
process; and (3) Any other duties necessary for the implementation of
parenting requirements. This amendment would exempt couples that complete a
premarital preparation course from the additional $60.00 marriage license
fee. Such a course would consist of at least four hours of instruction, and
would be completed no more than one year prior to applying for a marriage
license. A couple would have to present certificates of completion from an
authorized provider to the clerk in order to be exempt from the fee. This
amendment would limit persons authorized to offer premarital preparation
courses to the following: (1) Psychologists; (2) Clinical social workers;
(3) Licensed marital and family therapists; (4) Clinical pastoral
therapists; (5) Professional counselors; (6) Psychological examiners; (7)
Official representatives of religious institutions; and (8) Any other
provider approved by a judicial district. Finally, this amendment would
authorize county clerks to charge up to fifty cents per page for copying
parenting plan documents. AMENDMENT #4 exempts Blount and Sevier Counties
from this bill and adds a severability clause. AMENDMENT #6 requires the
administrative office of the courts to report on the effectiveness of this
bill, and the impact of the fees imposed by this bill in particular, to the
commission on children and youth, the house children and family affairs
committee and the senate general welfare, health and human resources
committee within two years. This amendment would require such report to
include a comparison of the marriage and divorce rates at the time of the
bill's passage and at yearly intervals thereafter, and would permit the
administrative office of the courts to request and receive necessary data
from appropriate state departments and agencies.

ON JUNE 28, 2001, THE


AMENDMENT #2 revises the provisions of
Senate Amendment #3 whereby $60.00 of the $62.50 marriage license fee is to
be divided among certain entities so that the division would be as follows:
(1) $7.00 would go to the AOC (for the purpose stated in Senate Amendment
#3, except this amendment deletes the specific reference to the creation of
parenting plan coordinators to service judicial districts); (2) $15.00 would
go to the department of children's services (for the purposes stated in
Senate Amendment #3); (3) $7.50 would go to the office of criminal justice
(for the purpose stated in Senate Amendment #3); (4) $20.50 would go to the
Tennessee disability coalition to build the capacity of the statewide
disability community to offer services to families and children with
disabilities; (5) $1.25 would go to CASA; (6) $4.00 would go to the
department of education for grants to boys and girls clubs in each grand
division to defray the expense of the clubs implementing the "project learn"
after-school program; (7) $3.00 would go to the state chapter of the
national association of social workers for education, information,
publications, and capacity building efforts; and (8) $1.75 would go to the
Weems Academy for foster care children. This amendment removes all of the
provisions regarding local parenting plan coordinators. This amendment
removes the provisions requiring, by August 1, 2001, the AOC to make funds
available for, among other things, local parenting plan coordinators, costs
of court-ordered, and mediation, and imposing other responsibilities on
local parenting plan coordinators. This amendment specifies that the AOC
would not be obligated to make grants to judicial districts except with
funds specifically appropriated for such purpose. This amendment also
removes the provisions added by Senate Amendments #4 and 6.

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