Civil/Courthouse Weddings - preparation program - 3/04
Smart Marriages ®
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Thu Mar 18 11:12:11 EST 2004
subject: Civil/Courthouse Weddings - preparation program - 3/04
from: Smart Marriages®
- COURT AIMS TO HELP SPOUSES STAY CIVIL
- SECULAR PROGRAMS RESOURCE LIST FROM AN EARLIER POST
- COURT AIMS TO HELP SPOUSES STAY CIVIL
I thought you might be interested in this story. We have been encouraging
this program for several years. These courthouse civil ceremony programs
serve a higher proportation of economically and ethnically diverse clients
than the other community programs.
Its unfortunate that the reporter did not choose to interview any of the
85-90% of the 570 couples who have been through the class and found it
helpful. Also, its EDUCATION we are offering, NOT counseling.
The Grand Rapids Press ran an editorial against this new policy. Other than
that there has been no negative response from the media.
Mark Eastburg, PhD
Healthy Marriages Grand Rapids
Mark.Eastburg at PineRest.org
> The counseling covers topics such as blending families from previous
> marriages, financial issues, cultural differences and lifestyle compatibility.
> Eastburg said Kelly wanted to have a convenient, inexpensive secular class
> available for those who wanted it. The Pine Rest program last four hours and
> costs $30, with financial help available.
Court aims to help spouses stay civil
Saturday, March 06, 2004
By Barton Deiters
The Grand Rapids Press
Hopeless romantics may be disappointed, but in Grand Rapids it will no
longer be possible to rush into the courthouse for a whirlwind wedding.
Starting Monday, couples looking for a District Court civil ceremony will
have to sit through four hours of counseling before saying "I do."
The six-judge court has adopted a Kentwood District Court policy that calls
for premarital counseling through a church or a secular counseling service.
Chief District Judge Benjamin Logan says the judges wanted to get couples to
look before they leap.
"Most people mean well when they get married, but they don't always think
things through," Logan said.
It makes sense to have a few hours of preparation, said Judge David Buter,
who served as chief judge when the court first considered the move.
"We have to attempt to convince people that they are making a serious
lifetime commitment that could affect them and their children," Buter said.
Logan said the judges were persuaded by a talk with Kentwood District Judge
William Kelly six months ago.
Since 1999, Kentwood has required couples to provide proof they had
counseling, through a church or a program offered at the Pine Rest Family
Services unit on 68th Street SE.
More than 550 couples have met the requirement through Pine Rest, according
to Mark Eastburg, the program's executive director. Eastburg also directs
Healthy Marriages Grand Rapids, a group started by State Sen. Bill Hardiman,
The counseling covers topics such as blending families from previous
marriages, financial issues, cultural differences and lifestyle
Eastburg said Kelly wanted to have a convenient, inexpensive secular class
available for those who wanted it. The Pine Rest program last four hours and
costs $30, with financial help available.
Kelly said he is not aware of anyone who has demanded to be married in
Kentwood without undergoing counseling, but he says the court is not
required to marry anyone. He said he will not perform the ceremony if the
But not everyone believes counseling is the court's responsibility.
Rockford District Judge Steven Servaas says he has no intention of making
the marriage process in his court any more cumbersome than it already is.
"We just marry them, we don't counsel them," Servaas said. "What are we
going to do if they refuse to take the class, not marry them? I think that
may be malfeasance of duty."
"I just see all kinds of problems that they're getting themselves into."
That was a sentiment shared by a couple getting married in downtown Grand
Rapids on Friday.
"If we were younger or this were our first wedding, I could see getting
counseling. But we know what we're doing," said 47-year-old David Rinck, who
wed 43-year-old Sue Zmudka.
"I know she's the one," he added.
Zmudka said: "I've had counseling before. It didn't work."
Also at the courthouse to be married Friday were Stephanie Marquez, 20, of
Grand Rapids, and Alberto Bahena, 34, of Mexico. They weren't thrilled over
"In some ways, it's a good idea so you know what you're getting into,"
Marquez said. "But it should be your choice."
Eastburg, however, believes counseling can benefit couples of all ages and
backgrounds. Some couples go into a courthouse not knowing each other's last
name or how to spell it, he said.
Eastburg said the premarriage counseling done in Kentwood has provided data
about people who wed in civil ceremonies that wasn't available before.
About 15 percent of Kent County marriages are civil ceremonies, Eastburg
said. Of the couples he's tracked, 42 percent say they chose civil marriage
to save money and 24 percent said they preferred a civil ceremony instead of
a religious one.
In 2003, Grand Rapids logged 130 civil ceremonies; Kentwood had 126.
Reporter Theresa D. McClellan contributed to this article.
© 2004 Grand Rapids Press.
- SECULAR PROGRAMS RESOURCE LIST FROM AN EARLIER POST:
> more and more people across the country are marrying in civil ceremonies. Our
> often cited stat that 75% of Americans marry in faith-based settings is dated
> and, worse than that it's misleading. If we want to turn things around, we
> MUST include secular marriage education efforts in our Community Healthy
> Marriage Initiatives (CHMI). Which means partnerships with the U.S. Extension
> Service programs and including marriage preparation at the courthouse, in high
> schools, colleges, on bases, in child birth education classes, in prisons,
> One of the absolutely best presentations at any Smart Marriages conference
> was the one in DC/2002 by Mark Eastburg of Healthy Marriages Grand Rapids on
> "Strengthening Courthouse Weddings." He points out that in his community
> the majority of couples that select civil ceremonies are from the highest
> risk most underserved groups - low income, minority, remarriages and
> cohabitors. If we continue to focus our efforts only on churches, we're not
> going to change the marriage success rates and we're going to look like
> doofuses. Mark will repeat this workshop in Dallas, but if you are working
> on a CHMI, I strongly urge you to purchase this tape NOW and get started
> thinking about how you'll do this. Courthouse civil ceremonies are one of
> the most obvious points of entry and Eastburg has a working model.
> to order, call 800-241-7785 and request tapes by number:
>> Strengthening Courthouse Weddings
>> Mark Eastburg, PhD
>> The 25% of couples who marry in civil ceremonies fall through the cracks
>> and miss out on marriage preparation. This program identified their special
>> needs and designed a program that works in collaboration with the courts to
>> fill this void.
> Other tapes with a secular "how to" focus":
>> Partner With Cooperative Extension: Create Capacity
>> Barbara Petty, MS, Francesca Adler-Baeder, PhD, Millie Ferrer, PhD, Anna Mae
>> Kobbe, PhD
>> This vast network of educators and researchers offers exciting programs and
>> obvious partners for your community, marriage-strengthening,
>> coalition-building efforts.
>> Marriage & Relationship Skills: Doing Time
>> Ron Grant, MDiv, Jo Anne Eason,
>> Explore the use of the PREP program with a prison population that combines
>> classes inside and faith-based partnerships and follow-up after release.
>> The Becoming Parents Program
>> Pamela Jordan, PhD, RN
>> Teach first-time parents PREP & SAVE relationship skills, self care, baby
>> & how parenthood will change their lives.
>> Family Wellness: Skills for Fragile Families
>> George Doub, MDiv, Flo Creighton, MSW
>> Teach skills to at-risk families - never-married, teen, single parent,
>> stepfamily, military, families with abuse - to handle extraordinary
>> and move toward ever greater stability.
>> Building Capacity
>> Julie Baumgardner, MS, Rozario Slack, MDiv, Sandra Bender, PhD, Mark
>> Learn strategies used in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Grand Rapids to build
>> coalitions across sectors to create readiness for implementing the
>> Healthy Marriage Initiative.
>> The Michigan Mediation Project
>> Hon James Sheridan, JD, MBA, Hon Helen Brown, JD, Stan Posthumus, JD, MSW
>> Seven counties are working to reduce conflict and litigation surrounding
>> divorce using a new mediation model that also holds out the possibility of
>> reconciliation. Learn how they created this coalition and how to replicate it
>> in your state.
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