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Divorce in a Covenant Marriage: What You Need to Know

Although Arizona is a no-fault state for divorce, there are certain marriages where things are not quite so simple. These are known as covenant marriages. Currently, there are only three states in the country that allow for these types of marriages—Louisiana, Arkansas, and Arizona. Let’s get a better understanding of what makes these marriages different from others.

The Differences in a Covenant Marriage

First, in a covenant marriage, you and your spouse are required to get premarital counseling, as well as counseling before they file for divorce. The thought behind these types of marriages, which tend to be religious-based, is to keep couples together. They feel that counseling can help with this, which is why it’s always encouraged.

The second difference in a covenant marriage is that there are generally limited grounds for seeking a divorce. Even though AZ might be a no-fault state, if you have a covenant marriage, the court can only grant a divorce for limited reasons. This means that it’s not as easy to get a divorce when you are in one of these types of marriages.

Reasons You Can Use to Get a Divorce in a Covenant Marriage

There are just a handful of reasons for getting a divorce when you are in a covenant marriage, and you will need to prove one of them to the court before you can be granted a divorce.

  • First, if you have a spouse who has committed adultery, you will be able to file for divorce.
  • Second, if you have a spouse who has committed a serious crime, a felony, and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment, you can file for a divorce.
  • Third, if your spouse has been absent for at least a year from the home where the two of you resided and has abandoned the home and marriage, and they refuse to return, you can file for a divorce. If they have left the home and they are expected to stay away for at least that long, it’s often possible to have an exception from the court, so you can file for divorce.

If they haven’t been away for a full year when the divorce paperwork is filed, the case won’t be dismissed. Instead, it will be put on hold until the year is up. During that time, it is still possible that the court might grant certain temporary orders and ensure they are enforced. This could include things like parenting time and child support, for example.

  • Fourth, if the spouse has physically or sexually abused the other spouse, a child, or a relative of either spouse who lives in the household full-time, or they have committed domestic violence or spousal abuse, a divorce can be granted.
  • Fifth, if the spouses have been living separately for at least two years without getting back together before the case is filed, they can be granted a divorce. The court will allow an exception, too. As with abandonment mentioned above, it’s still possible to file before the two-year mark. The court will simply hold the paperwork until that time has passed and then allow you to move forward with the divorce. Again, temporary orders can be placed and enforced during this time.
  • Sixth, if the spouses have already been granted legal separation through the court, and they have been living separately for at least one year from the date of that legal separation, they can file for divorce.
  • Seventh, if your spouse has regularly abused drugs or alcohol, you are allowed to file for divorce.
  • Eighth, if both of the spouses agree to the divorce, they are allowed to move ahead with it and file the paperwork.

As you can see, there are some things about covenant marriages that make getting a divorce more difficult. If you and your spouse simply aren’t getting along, it’s not enough for you to want to file for divorce if they aren’t also willing to get divorced. You need to meet one or more of the reasons mentioned above.

Still, the reasons that are covered and allowed by the law do offer some leeway, so those who are in dangerous marriages will at least have a way out.

However, because of the limitations, it can still often feel as though you do not have a way out of a covenant marriage. If you have questions and concerns, and you are wondering whether you have a way out of the marriage—and what you need to do to move forward—you should get in touch with an attorney.

Covenant marriages have never been popular because of issues like those mentioned above. Although the idea of counseling is certainly beneficial for many marriages, requiring counseling before getting a divorce can sometimes keep people in marriages where they shouldn’t stay.

Should You Get a Covenant Marriage?

Is getting a covenant marriage a good idea? Everyone is different and will have their own views on whether this type of marriage is right for them or not. Often, these marriages are tied together with religion. However, it does seem to be a bit antiquated for most people. Although you don’t go into a marriage thinking about divorce, you have to realize that it’s a possibility.

Generally, people want to have full control over their divorce if they get to the point where they want or need to have one. A covenant marriage doesn’t allow you the same freedom of a no-fault divorce that other people get.

Work with an Attorney

If you are in a covenant marriage and you are considering a divorce, you should reach out and speak to an attorney as soon as possible. However, you will want to make sure that the attorney you choose has experience with these types of marriages and divorces. They can let you know whether you have grounds to file and can let you know all of the other options that may be available for you.

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