Marriage Class


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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37 Responses

  1. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    If a law isn’t working, clearly what we need is to make it more complicated (that’s how tax codes work, right?)

    So, I propose an exponential backoff approach, similar to that used in various network protocols:

    For marriage number i, the delay between marriage license application and wedding is 2^(i) days – so, for a first marriage, it would be 2 days, 4 days for a second marriage, 8 days for a third marriage.

    For most people, that wouldn’t amount to much of an inconvenience – waiting 16 days for a fourth marriage might be slightly annoying, but curb the worst excesses of impulsiveness. But if you’re on your ninth marriage, the state has the right to express some scepticism as to whether it will see you in divorce court real soon now, and so requires that you maintain a desire to wed for at least 512 days.Report

    • Avatar Guy in reply to dragonfrog says:


    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to dragonfrog says:

      You’re going to completely exclude Larry King, aren’t you? The license expires on its own terms after 60 days, so if (i) > 5, you can’t perfect a license, with or without a class.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Good point, that. The expiry timer on the license would have to start not at application, but at day 2^i after applicatoin – that way everyone can enjoy the full window of opportunity for marriage.

        Maybe in fairness, it should also expand for the oft-married – if you have to wait over a year to get married, the chances of some family emergency making the 60 day window suddenly infeasible could be quite high. Make it 60 or 2^(i-1) days, whichever is greater.Report

  2. Avatar Sual Degraw says:

    I heard about the Greenberg Traurig today and it does make me wonder why they took this case at all. Have they previously done legal work for the Florida Associations of County Clerks? Is the Florida Association of County Clerks generally just a front for right-wing politics? There are still liberal sections of Florida and presumably there are liberal Florida County Clerks, my guess is that they are not fans of this memo or that they had to pay for it.

    The marriage class seems like it can and should be another example of the Oh Florida punchline.

    The new tactic I’ve heard is that clerks are just going to not issue any marriage licenses at all.Report

  3. Avatar RTod says:

    That’s funny, but my thoughts were similar but quite different from Mrs Likkos’s. I was curious to see if the number of suits for annulment had gone down after the law was passed.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to RTod says:

      I’m used to California, where there is pretty much just “divorce.” Turns out in Florida, there are legal annulments, absolute (regular) divorces, and some other kind of divorce that means you can never get re-married. Also, the reconciliation period is a year. Whew! The family law bar has some good friends in Tallahassee, I tell you what!Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Seriously? Like, not only are you not married to your previous spouse, but the state of Florida thinks you’re such a colossal jerk that they’re pre-emptively saving everyone else from the agony of being married to you ever again?

        I’m not sure what I think of that. But given the news stories Florida Man tends to turn up in, it’s probably for the best if he doesn’t get married…Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        No, no, that only means that you and your former spouse can never remarry one another, not that you are thereafter barred from ever marrying anyone ever again. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ex-spouses who would like to see that done, but that’s probably more power than we want to give the courts.Report

      • Avatar David Ryan in reply to Burt Likko says:

        So Florida has divorces that are *more* permanent than marriages?Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I happen to like Hogarth. It was a very appropriate illustration for this post.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Divorce rates in Florida are high because all that’s required is a reasonable belief that you’re at imminent risk of, say, your spouse being unfaithful. It’s what they call Stand Your Grounds.Report

  6. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    I agree with my brother on your choice picking of an illustration. And the little dance that the bride is doing is oh so modern.Report

  7. Avatar Chris says:

    Will… Not… Make… Minor… Overly Pedantic… Statistical… Correction.Report

  8. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Unless Florida is different than the states where I’ve lived, the state automatically extends to married couples certain legal arrangements for which non-married couples have to “buy” assorted paperwork (as in pay an attorney to prepare papers, perhaps have a court take notice, etc). Custody of children if one spouse dies, limited powers of attorney in the event of incapacitating illness, privileged inheritance rules in the event of death, probably a requirement that defined benefit pensions default to “joint and survivor benefit” unless the spouse explicitly signs that away, etc. Does the fact that the state is granting privileges give them a sufficient interest to impose restrictions?Report

    • Probably. I haven’t loked at it with any sort of critical analysis, but I don’t think anyone questions the constitutional ability of the state to at least minimally regulate marriage.

      My principal point isn’t that marriage should be absolutely unregulated. It’s that this regulation is ineffectual and therefore normative lay undesirable.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Michael Cain says:


      As my father is fond of saying, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It’s not enough to justify a specific regulation by arguing that governments have the right to regulate an activity in general.Report

    • @burt-likko , @james-k
      Absolutely. I’m an advocate of having government be as simple as possible. Just because you can do a regulation doesn’t mean that you should. Further, every regulation ought to have a timer running on it (a principle of real-time software as well), at which point it will be reviewed, asking whether it’s still necessary, if it can be simplified, if the goal has been subsumed by something else, etc, etc.Report

  9. Avatar Damon says:

    Meh, Florida’s “restrictions” on getting married weren’t as tedious as getting married in some parts of the Caribbean. My ex and I got married in a former British colony and had to pay to get our wedding announced three days in advance-in case anyone wanted to object, plus, we had to be “residents” for a minimum of three days before the ceremony could take place.

    4 hours? Meh.Report

  10. Avatar Lyle says:

    It should be noted that more than Florida have the marriage class, Texas does as well, it waives the 3 day waiting period as well as reduces the fee for the marriage license. I suspect most southern states at least have this feature.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Lyle says:

      Why southern states? Whatever policy reasons underlie this rule would seem to apply with equal force everywhere. Higher influence of culturally conservative and/or religious folk in governments of southern states? I can see that, but then wouldn’t this replicate at least in the Midwest and central states, too?Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Lyle says:

      I live in Texas. I just got married in Vegas. Which we planned for about three months prior, so we didn’t exactly elope or get married on the spur of the moment.

      We hit thirteen years just a month ago. 🙂

      As for why the paperwork — I dunno. There’s lot of conservatives lamenting how no-fault divorce ruined society, but I honestly just think it’s just knee-jerk “If you make it harder, only people who really want it will do it! Less divorce”.

      Maybe that gets shouted down in other conservative states — perhaps they have more of a semi-libertarian streak of “Why are you telling me I can’t get married? HUH?”

      I know the Southern culture tends towards more…busy-bodying about social lives than I think you find in the mid-west, for instance.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Morat20 says:

        Again, I think this sort of thought (thought that you report, @morat20 , not necessarily that you advocate) begs the question of why a high divorce rate is considered a bad thing.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

        I think that the automatic assumption is that there are a certain number of divorces that are for reasons that are reconcilable. Misunderstandings, immaturity on the part of one (or both) of the people involved, that sort of thing. If divorce is (more) difficult, maybe the folks will reconcile.

        (There’s also a hidden assumption that a marriage that can be easily reconciled *SHOULD* be reconciled.)

        I don’t know exactly what to think about that. There were moments in the first couple years of my marriage that made me want to throw in the towel and, lemme tell ya, I AM SO GLAD THAT I DID NOT.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Morat20 says:

        Divorce is bad because….marriage is supposed to be for life, per Christianity. Which informs much of US cultural values, especially the conservative strain. Protestants aren’t as wedded to it (pardon the pun) as Catholics, but even they’ve been historical leery of easy divorce.

        The south is more conservative and religious, so those views…linger longer.

        No-fault divorce is, still, occasionally brought up as some social problem to be addressed — although not one that I think has any traction outside the most conservative religious groups.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

        Divorce is also bad, as far as I can tell, because it seems to do a number on the kids in the family. I know that many of my classmates in high school had awful experiences when their parents divorced and huge numbers of them, much like the children of alcoholics, said “I am *NEVER* going to do that/let that happen to me!”

        And, much like the children of alcoholics, that was true for many of them and, sadly, not true for many of them.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Morat20 says:


        Divorce is also bad, as far as I can tell, because it seems to do a number on the kids in the family.

        I’m always suspicious of this claim. I think bad parents who fight and traumatize their children via divorce would probably also traumatize them without that divorce. Children who have to adapt to living in two households develop flexibility, which can be a very good thing; and if both households are loving and stable, they may have more adults (and siblings) enriching their lives.

        So I just don’t buy the whole divorce is horrid and ruins kids; and I don’t think cold and unloving parents staying together for the sake of the kids is a good thing. Children learn how to be in loving and respectful relationships from seeing their parents in loving relationships; and sometimes.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Morat20 says:

        The very short summary of research on kids and divorce shows that toxic relationship really harm kids. High conflict divorces are very hard on kids. Low conflict divorces where the parents get along well enough and can co-parent can be stressful for kids but they can adapt and do just fine in the long run. Conflict, and of course drug abuse if present, is the part that is detrimental.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Morat20 says:

        all frankness, but I think that’s a stupid thing.

        People get married, basically, for three reasons.

        One is “opposites attract” — these are the lusty, conflict-ridden relationships that are going to explode one way or another. It’s people taking a bond that was meant to get them to some relationship-free breeding, and trying to make that into a marriage. Rarely ends well, and trying to pretend it’s not going to end is silly.

        Then people get married to have a partner. These relationships are solid, and nothing ever really seems to go wrong with them. They’re also not for a significant portion of the population — you know the guys/ladies who can’t think of someone of the opposite sex as a partner.

        Then people get married to have a love-slave/sugardaddy. Okay, I suppose if you want to incentivize cheating and staying married, you could “counsel” women out of leaving their husbands because they’re cheating bastards. One can have a “stable” relationship with cheating, so long as the spouse is getting enough attention and “shiny things”.

        I don’t think the last sort of relationship is terribly good, nor that we should encourage people to be rigid, autocratic people.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

        Divorce is better than murder/suicide, especially if there’s children involved.

        As such I see divorce as a good alternative to that.

        I should have made that part of my position more clear, I admit.Report