When a couple decides to enter into a covenant marriage, they agree to engage in pre-marital counseling and adhere to limited grounds when seeking a divorce. Tony Perkins, President of the Washington D.C. Family Research Council, first sponsored this new movement. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature, who is crusading to defend Christian values. Their primary goal is to encourage couples to engage in conflict resolution, rather than opting for divorce.
The Laws Regarding This Type of Marriage
The concept of covenant marriage first began as a way to educate people on how to renew and strengthen their marital bonds. In1997, Louisiana became the first state to enact laws regarding covenant marriage, and both Arkansas and Arizona followed suit.
Louisiana State Laws
Louisiana law outlines three requirements for couples when choosing to enter into this type of marriage:
- They must agree to seek marriage counseling if they develop problems during their marriage.
- They can only seek a divorce on limited grounds.
- The couple has to obtain pre-marital counseling from a clergyman or professional marriage counselor prior to marriage. The party providing the counseling must attest to this with a signed and notarized affidavit.
Couples who are already married can convert their relationship to a covenant marriage. If the couple decides to seek a divorce, the marriage can only be ended if there is proof that:
- Their spouse has committed adultery
- Either spouse has been incarcerated or committed a felony offense
- They abandoned the family home for a year and refuses to return
- Is guilty of committing sexual or physical abuse against the spouse or the child of one of the spouses
The law provides an alternative grounds if the couple has lived separately for two years without hope of reconciling with each other.
Arkansas State Laws
With one of the highest divorce rates in the country, Arkansas has adopted this alternative type of marriage. The state requires the couple to declare the following:
- They view marriage as a lifelong relationship
- The have completed re-marital counseling
- They have understood and read the Covenant Marriage Act of 2001
- Should they have problems in their marriage, they will seek counseling to preserve the marriage
- They make a promise to love, honor and care for one another until their death
Divorce can only be granted under the following conditions:
- Spouse has committed adultery
- Has been in prison, committed a felony or other infamous crime
- Committed sexual or physical against their spouse or child
The couple may be granted a divorce if they have been separated for two years. If minor children are involved, they must lived apart for two years and six months.
Arizona State Laws
Arizona requires the couple to sign a declaration stating the following:
- They regard marriage as a lifelong commitment
- They have carefully chosen one another as their future spouse
- They have received counseling prior to marriage
- If the marriage experiences difficulties, the will make all reasonable efforts to keep their marriage intact
- They vow to love, honor and care for each other until death
A divorce can only be granted upon proof that one spouse has:
- Committed adultery during their marriage
- Regularly abused drugs and/or alcohol
- Has been imprisoned or committed a felony crime
- Abandoned the home for a least a year before the spouse filed for divorce and refuses to come back
- Committed physical, emotional or sexual abuse against their spouse, child or other family member residing in the home
There is a provision in the law allowing for divorce if the couple has lived apart for at least two years before the divorce petition was filed. Their legal union can be ended if they agree to dissolution of marriage.
Why You Should Seek Legal Guidance
When couples agree to get married, they don’t usually think about how or why they may end up divorcing. But statistics show that nearly half of all marriages will end, and usually not amicably. Before you enter into any type of legally binding contract, you should consult with an attorney to fully understand what you may be agreeing to. None of us can foresee the future and life can take many unexpected turns. By obtaining advice from a family law attorney, you may be able to protect your future.