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What Is A Covenant Marriage?

If you are newly engaged and concerned about the possibility of divorce, there are steps you can take to help safeguard your marriage from dissolution. One popular method for couples entering marriage to fend off divorce is to participate in premarital counseling. In fact, some churches and other organizations will require sessions prior to allowing a wedding to take place. Another option at your disposal is to apply for and enter into a covenant marriage. This type of marriage is different from a traditional marriage, and should therefore only be entered into after careful consideration and thought.

Arizona statutes help explain the concept of a covenant marriage. It works like this:

  • You must declare your intent to enter a covenant marriage and engage in counseling sessions prior to the marriage.
  • If the marriage does experience difficulty that leads to divorce, a no fault divorce proceeding is not an option.
  • Specific grounds for divorce must be cited in order to obtain a divorce from a covenant marriage. These grounds include abuse, infidelity, felony, abandonment, or an extended period of time spent separated.

The purpose of this law is to prevent parties from getting married without giving the marriage serious thought. The idea of a covenant marriage is also meant to reduce the rate of divorce, and provide the couple with a deeper understanding of the consequences of ending their marriage. Whether these goals are actually obtained is debatable, but one thing is for certain: if you have entered a covenant marriage and want to get divorced, you can do so. However, the divorce process for this type of marriage is more complex than with a non-covenant marriage, and requires artful legal argument. Contact our office for more information, and to learn what you will face when seeking a divorce from a covenant marriage.

For answers to your questions about covenant marriages, consult our office. Put our valuable experience to work for you. Call The Sampair Group in Phoenix and the West Valley today to schedule your appointment.

Covenant Marriage and Divorce

Mesa  AZ Divorce LawyerIn 1998 Arizona began offering covenant marriage, a type of marriage that makes it harder to get married and harder to get divorced. A covenant marriage occurs when you obtain counseling before marriage and then sign a declaration when applying for your marriage license. The declaration must state:

“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.”

These additional steps in addition to having a marriage ceremony make a marriage a covenant marriage.

Because covenant marriage is meant to be more difficult to end, the legislature has set out only a few specific situations in which a divorce can be granted.

  • Your spouse has committed adultery.
  • Your spouse has committed a felony with a sentence of imprisonment or death.
  • Your spouse has abandoned you and the marital residence for at least a year and refuses to return.
  • Your spouse committed domestic violence; or sexually or physically abused you, a child or a relative of yours or your spouse’s who is permanently living in the marital home.
  • You and your spouse have lived separately for one year from a decree of separation and have not reconciled.
  • Your spouse regularly abuses drugs or alcohol.
  • You and your spouse agree to get a divorce.

If you want a divorce from a covenant marriage, the Sampair Group can help you. Our Maricopa County firm is available to represent you. Call us today.

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.