The Basics of Covenant Marriage

On August 21, 1998, Arizona introduced into statute a type of marriage called a covenant marriage. Consenting adults applying for a marriage license in Arizona may indicate on their application if they want their marriage to be a covenant marriage.

In this kind of marriage, a couple forms more inflexible agreements about their marriage being a commitment for life. The Phoenix family attorney’s at The Sampair Group can help you understand the obligations required of you under a covenant marriage and how to file for divorce if you have chosen to end the marriage.

If a couple that is already married decides that they would like to change their existing marriage to a covenant marriage, they will need to sign a marriage license affidavit and a “Declaration of Intent to Enter Into a Covenant Marriage” form at the Marriage License Office.

Under Arizona statutes, couples in covenant marriages are required to go to premarital counseling and sign a special declaration document when they apply for a marriage license. This document states that the couple agrees to live together for the rest of their lives as a married couple, confirms that you have received premarital counseling, and in the event that marital problems arise, both parties will take all reasonable efforts to preserve the marriage.

A couple wishing to enter into a covenant marriage must take the following actions:
1. The couple must agree, in writing, as follows:

We solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for as long as they both live. We have chosen each other carefully and have received premarital counseling on the nature, purposes and responsibilities of marriage. We understand that a covenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling.

With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do declare that our marriage will be bound by Arizona law on covenant marriages and we promise to love, honor and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.

2. The couple must execute an affidavit stating that they have received premarital counseling from a member of the clergy or from a marriage counselor. Premarital counseling shall include a discussion of the seriousness of covenant marriage, communication of the fact that a covenant marriage is a commitment for life, a discussion of the obligation to seek marital counseling in times of marital difficulties, and a discussion of the exclusive grounds for legally terminating a covenant marriage by dissolution of marriage or legal separation.

3. The couple must obtain a notarized statement from the clergy member or counselor that performed the counseling.

Grounds for divorce in a covenant marriage are fault-based, and the spouse requesting the divorce must prove the reasons they are stating for wanting a divorce. The reasons for wanting to file for legal separation are similar.

These grounds include:
– Adultery Commission of a serious crime (felony) and sentencing to death or imprisonment
– Abandonment for at least one year
– Physical or sexual abuse of the spouse, a child or relative who lives permanently in the married couple’s home
– Domestic violence or emotional abuse
– Living separate and apart for at least two continuous years before filing for divorce
– Being granted a legal separation and living separate and apart continuously for at least one year from the date of the legal separation
– Drug or alcohol abuse Both spouses agree to a divorce

Choosing to have a covenant marriage is not mandatory when applying for a marriage license. If you are in a covenant marriage and are seeking divorce, contact a spousal attorney in Glendale for legal protection in your divorce case. The Sampair Group focuses on handling family law matters on behalf of clients throughout Maricopa County and will take the time to get to know you and the circumstances of your case to guide you through the process as efficiently as possible.