In 1999 the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 6,200 marriages take place every day in the United States.  The bureau also reported that 3,100 divorces occur every day.  In fact, the current divorce rate is now inching its way up . . . 6 of 10 marriages may be heading toward divorce.

But the good news is that several states have seen and experienced enough.  Florida, Michigan, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, Maryland and Minnesota, among others, have either introduced or passed bills to encourage pre-marital education, including relationship skills facilitated either by a licensed mental health professional or religious instructor or their designate to help couples confront the major causes of divorce, such as conflicts, communications and commitment to each other.

In a society where commitment has lost its meaning and appeal, pre-marital education focuses on the single most powerful vow a couple can make ? commitment to their marriage, commitment to their children and commitment to their community.  Research has shown that (1) today�s couples have no good role models: one quarter of the adult population of marriageable age is a child of divorce and (2) the difference between successful couples and unsuccessful couples is how they handle their conflicts and those skills can be taught.

Illinois now has a chance to make a difference.  Senate Bill 24, Illinois� proposal for pre-marital education, previously defeated on the Senate floor, will once again come up for Senate vote in April, 2001.  This bill is being introduced by State Senator John Cullerton and is supported by many divorce attorneys, mental health practitioners and clergymen.  We are asking legislators to pass this bill for the sake of Illinois� young marriage-minded couples.

Our "Think Tank" has met over 15 times in the past three years, and we believe pre-marital education could help reduce divorces by as much as 30% -- that could translate to as many as 200 divorces weekly in Illinois.  That�s thousands of marriages that need not be torn apart financially or their children subjected to hurtful custody battles.

Illinois has already made a public commitment to support and strengthen marriage.  This bill can help couples fulfill that commitment.  Please vote "yes" on SB 24.


Gemma B. Allen
Ronald S. Ladden
Ladden & Allen,

Advisory Committee in Formation:

1. Doug Delaney
Catholic Conference of Illinois

2. Amy Desai, J.D.
Focus on the Family

3. Robert Downs, J.D.

4. Robert Galatzer-Levy, M.D.

5. Marion Holtzer, MSW

6. Very Rev. Gary Sinclair

7. Patricia McMahon, Psy.D

8. Virginia Nurmi
Illinois Family Institute

9. Alan Ravitz, M.D.

10. Kenneth Connor
Family Research Center


Wednesday, March 21, 2001
Toby Trimmer: 217/782-0566


SPRINGFIELD, Illinois ? With more than 40,000 marriages ending in divorce every year in Illinois, State Senator John Cullerton (D-Chicago) has decided to do something about it.  On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 24, Cullerton�s measure encouraging engaged couples to seek pre-marital education.

Under Cullerton�s legislation, marriage licenses would be provided to couples upon verification that they have participated in at least four hours of pre-marital education from religious officials or behavioral health professionals. Though statistics have proven that the education is highly beneficial in strengthening marriages, the measure allows couples who do not wish to seek the services to obtain a marriage license after a 60 day waiting period.

"In Illinois, 47% of all marriages eventually end in divorce," Cullerton said.  "The cost to spouses, to their children and their families is enormous.  But there is extremely credible evidence that shows us that couples who participate in just a few hours of education before they exchange their vows tend to stay together at higher rates."

Gemma Allen, a Chicago Divorce Attorney who founded a think tank on Illinois marriage and divorce initiatives and researched similar legislation in states throughout the nation, encouraged Cullerton to introduce the bill.  Allen said that pre-marital education works by teaching much-needed techniques in the skill of resolving conflicts.

"It�s my experience that many couples simply don�t know how to communicate their frustrations, concerns and difficulties with their spouse," Allen said.  "As a result, this lack of communication boils over time and the relationship ends.  But we know that there are simple skills that two people in love can and will learn, provided they have the resources and encouragement to do so."

Cullerton�s measure also has the support of the Catholic Conference.  Donna Dausman, the Director of the Office of Family and Youth Ministry for the Springfield Diocese said that the legislation keeps the best interests of families and children in mind.

"Strong families and strong marriages are the cornerstone of our society," Dausman said.  "Marriage preparation assists in helping those strong marriages and is in the best interests of these couples and, most importantly, the children of these couples.  This legislation advances our goals to encourage lasting marriages in Illinois."

The Illinois Family Institute, an affiliate of the Colorado-based "Focus on the Family" is also in strong support of Cullerton�s legislation.

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