- The Washington Times - Monday, April 5, 2004

Divorce rates are falling faster in U.S. counties that have a program in which clergy offer premarital counseling and other marital-support services than those without the program, says a study released yesterday.

A review of 114 counties with a Marriage Savers’ Community Marriage Policy shows that divorce rates fell by 8.6 percent in four years and 17.5 percent in seven years. In comparable counties without a marriage policy, divorce rates fell 5.6 percent in four years and 9.4 percent in seven years.

The Institute for Research and Evaluation in Salt Lake City spent two years studying 114 counties with a Community Marriage Policy, which asks local clergy of all faiths to sign statements saying they will require premarital counseling before they marry a couple and offer enrichment, mentoring and reconciliation services to married couples.

These “extraordinary results” show what can happen with “a truly grass-roots effort run entirely by volunteers,” said Diane Sollee, who manages the national Smart Marriages conferences and directs the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

“Imagine what could be done with funding and administrative help,” she said.

The Bush administration is working to direct $1.5 billion to pro-marriage initiatives, said Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services.

This lower divorce rate translated to about 31,000 saved marriages, said Stan Weed, president of the institute and lead author of the study, which is expected to be published soon in the peer-reviewed Family Relations journal.

Divorce rates already are falling, probably because of a decade’s worth of pro-marriage activism and increases in cohabiting and older-age marriages, said David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values.

Still, more needs to be done to reduce divorce because the nation’s high divorce rate threatens the well-being of millions of children, he said.

Marriage Savers is founded and led by syndicated columnist Michael McManus and his wife, Harriet.

“The crucial ingredient,” he said yesterday, “are mentor couples” who are trained to help struggling couples.

Meanwhile, a Gallup poll has found that although 27 percent of Americans have been divorced at some point in their lives, only 10 percent are currently divorced.

This means that roughly six in 10 divorced people eventually remarry, said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Tuesday Briefing, which polled 1,005 adults in March.

“So while marriages may fail, the will to be married endures,” said Lydia Saad, senior Gallup Poll editor.

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