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Colorado ballot initiative seeks to require pre-marriage education

If a recently proposed ballot initiative ever reaches fruition, Colorado couples may be required to take pre-wedding education classes if they want to get married in the Centennial State.

According to several reports, a group known as Kids Against Divorce is heading up efforts to collect the more than 86,000 signatures required to get its initiative - otherwise known as The Colorado Marriage Education Act - on the November ballot in Colorado.

Specifically, the new measure, if passed, would mandate that couples attend 10 hours of pre-wedding marriage education classes before they will be allowed to marry, which increases to 20 and 30 hours for second and third marriages, respectively. However, the initiative would treat remarriages among widows and widowers as first-time weddings, and thus they would only be required to complete 10 hours of classes.

Under the proposed initiative, the Colorado State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners would be tasked with developing the education classes, according to TODAY News.

Children and divorce

Proponents of the Colorado ballot initiative claim that pre-wedding education classes will assist couples in better preparing for marriage, and consequently help protect children from divorce. "By making the necessary changes on the front end of marriage, we can prevent the lifelong effects of divorce on the back end," said Kids Against Divorce founder, David Schel, in an email to TODAY News.

Not everyone agrees that this initiative is needed, however. In fact, some believe it not only overreaches into the lives and decisions of private individuals, but will do little to actually increase the longevity of marriages or protect children.

Additionally, Colorado law already contains several safeguards that are used protect the well-being of children during divorce. For instance, Colorado parents are generally encouraged to participate in resolving any child custody or visitation issues should their marriage end in divorce. In fact, Colorado law expressly permits each parent to create and submit his or her own preferred parenting plan to the court for approval.

However, even in circumstances in which parents do not submit proposed parenting plans, or when the court does not approve such plans, courts are directed under the law to devise a plan that is in a child's best interests - making sure to take into account the child's physical health and emotional development.

Legal assistance may be required

It will likely be some time before it is fully known what impact, if any, the recent ballot initiative will have on those in Colorado wishing to get married. Although, even if pre-wedding classes are ultimately required in Colorado, divorces will still inevitably occur - and the children of these marriages will still have to be taken into account.

Accordingly, it is often best to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney if you are going through a divorce and believe child custody may be a contested issue. A knowledgeable attorney can explain your rights and help ensure the well-being of your children is properly addressed.

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