A covenant marriage is a unique marital arrangement that is available only in Arizona and two other states (Arkansas and Louisiana). Those who are in favor of covenant marriages say that they help to strengthen marriages, ensure a high level of commitment from both spouses prior to marriage, and to produce lower divorce rates.
In an Arizona covenant marriage, this is accomplished by requiring premarital counseling either through a member of the clergy or by a marriage counselor and having that authority submit notarized proof to the state that the couple has undergone the required counseling. Covenant marriages are not by nature religious, but they are most often chosen by persons with religious faith. However, non-religious persons may also choose a covenant marriage.
Most marriages in the US can be ended by no-fault divorce, where the person requesting the divorce does not have to have a reason to request it nor have consent from the other spouse. Covenant marriages, on the other hand, only offer divorce as an option when specific conditions are met:
- One spouse habitually abuses alcohol or drugs
- One spouse is incarcerated for committing a felony
- One spouse commits adultery
- One spouse has sexually/physically abused the other or family members
- The spouses have lived apart for two years OR one year if legally separated OR one spouse has left the matrimonial home for a one year
- Both spouses agree to the divorce
It is important to understand your legal obligations if you and a prospective spouse are considering a covenant marriage. This post is intended to inform you about covenant marriages in Arizona, but not to act as legal advice.