Arizona’s Covenant Marriage
COVENANT MARRIAGES – The Tie that Binds
What are Covenant Marriages? They are marriage contracts, in which the parties make a legally binding promise to remain married for the rest of their lives and not to seek a quick divorce. The rationale is that too many people get divorce without working to solve their problems, so three states have enacted ‘covenant marriages’ (Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana) in order to preserve the institution of marriage.
Arizona’s Covenant Marriage
A Covenant Marriage is not mandatory; it is an option available to people who wish to enter into a marriage. The parties promise to get pre-marital counseling, and state their understanding that marriage is a lifelong commitment. In order to be legally married, they must fill out the marriage license, then obtain counseling from either a member of the clergy, or a marriage counselor. The counselor advises them about marriage, and helps them explore their relationship, with the understanding that marriage is not subject to whims or sudden changes of mind; it is a lifelong union. Upon completion of the counseling sessions, they give the couple a signed, notarized statement that the counseling was completed, and the statement is submitted with the marriage license.
Not Just for Newlyweds
If a married couple seeks to convert their marriage from a no-fault to a covenant marriage, they do not have to get a new license or undergo counseling. They get an application from the Superior Court Clerk, which contains similar language to the Covenant Marriage application, along with proof of their marriage. Once they submit the application, their marriage is transformed into a Covenant Marriage.
Ending a Covenant Marriage
It is far more difficult to dissolve a Covenant Marriage. No Fault rules do not apply because the spouses made a legally binding promise to remain married for the rest of their lives. Arizona courts will grant a dissolution to a covenant marriage if the petitioner can prove the respondent (other spouse):
· Committed adultery
· Abused drugs or alcohol, to such an extent that the marriage became intolerable
· Assaulted the petitioner, any children, or other family members
· Had abandoned the petitioner for one year, and refused to return
· Was sentenced to death or imprisoned for a major felony
· Were granted a separation and have been separated for one year
· Agreed to a divorce.
The spouses may also agree to a separation, and will be granted a divorce if they have been separated for one year. The grounds are similar to the grounds for divorce.
Advice for Covenant Spouses
After a good faith effort to save the marriage has failed, contact an experienced family lawyer. A covenant Dissolution will have the same issues raised by a no fault divorce:
· Valuation of income or separate property
· Spousal support
· Child Support
· Parenting Issues
· Legal decision making status.
Don’t attempt to negotiate a marital dissolution without the help of a lawyer. They can advise people on their rights and available remedies. A family lawyer has the experience and staff to help clients get a fair settlement.