CHARLESTON (AP) — The price for a marriage license for some couples in West Virginia is about to go up.
Starting June 8, couples who do not undergo four hours of premarital counseling will pay $56 — or an extra $20 — for a marriage license. The Legislature enacted the change in March.
The Charleston Daily Mail reports a couple must provide a certificate showing that a class was completed to avoid paying the higher fee.
While some advocates say the change will help reduce the divorce rate and strengthen families, others are skeptical.
West Virginia Association of Counties Executive Director Patti Hamilton said the state hasn’t provided funding for new forms that must ask about pre-marriage counseling sessions.
“This is an unfunded mandate by the state on the counties,” she said.
Hamilton said county clerks also must adjust their computer networks to allow for the extra fee to be paid to the state.
“And we only have about a week to get all of this ironed out,” she said. “And June is the month of marriages.”
Among those that can perform the counsel includes psychiatrists, clergy members, professional marriage counselors, social workers and family therapists.
Hamilton said the premarital courses must cover communications skills, finance and conflict management, child and parenting responsibilities, extended family roles and key components of a successful marriage.
The Family Policy Council pushed for the bill’s passage. President and general counsel Jeremiah Dys said the government should do everything it can to bolster marriages. He said the law will save families and the government money, citing court time as a factor in the cost of divorces.
And the upfront costs for counties pale in comparison to the cost the state must shoulder for divorces, he said.
Dys said a similar law is in place in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Minnesota.
Monsignor Edward Sadie of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Charleston is skeptical about the law’s effectiveness. He said people who hadn’t planned to receive counseling won’t change their minds because of the increased fee and instead would pay the extra $20 to get a license.
Five dollars of the fee each will go to a civil legal fund for low-income residents and a fund that aids in domestic violence cases. The remaining $10 will go to the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ new Marriage Education Fund, which will oversee the network of registered counselors and clergy.
But Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick said the DHHR has yet to create a website listing individuals and organizations recognized by the state.
A DHHR spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.