On August 21, 1998, Arizona incorporated a new type of marriage statute into state law called “covenant marriage.” Covenant marriage does not replace existing marriage arrangements or replace the traditional concept of marriage. Instead, it offers an additional option to couples who wish to marry. The covenant marriage differs both in the steps necessary to marry and the reasons why a legal separation or divorce may be granted by the court.
Pre Covenant Marriage Steps
One of the main tenants of a covenant marriage is that to marry, the couple first must have counseling (called “premarital counseling”) from a member of the clergy or marriage counselor. In this premarital counseling, both people must be advised that a covenant marriage is a commitment for life. Premarital counseling also must include a discussion of the seriousness of covenant marriage, the requirement to seek marriage counseling if marital difficulties develop, and the limited legal reasons available for ending the marriage by legal separation or divorce. Following counseling, the couple must show their intention to enter into a covenant marriage by signing a special statement when applying for a marriage license.
Separation and Divorce
One of the unique aspects of covenant marriage is that couples may only separate legally or divorce for a limited number of reasons. According to the State of Arizona, these reasons are as follows:
1. The spouse against whom the petition for dissolution is filed (the “Respondent”) has committed adultery.
2. The spouse against whom the petition for dissolution is filed (the “Respondent”) has committed a serious crime (“felony”) and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment.
3. For at least one year before the petition for dissolution is filed, the spouse against whom the petition is filed (the “Respondent”) has been absent from (“abandoned”) the home where the married couple resided and refuses to return.
4. The spouse against whom the petition for dissolution is filed (the “Respondent”) either has (1) physically or sexually abused the other spouse, a child or a relative of either spouse who lives permanently in the married couple’s home, or (2) committed domestic violence.
5. The spouses have been living separate/apart without re-cohabitating for at least two straight years before the petition for dissolution is filed.
6. The spouses already have been granted a legal separation by the court, and have been living separate/apart without re-cohabitating for at least one year from the date of the legal separation.
7. The spouse against whom the petition for dissolution is filed (the “Respondent”) has regularly abused drugs or alcohol.
8. Both spouses agree to dissolve the marriage.
This narrative is not intended as a comprehensive explanation of covenant marriage in all cases and under all circumstances in Arizona. The law must be applied to the specific facts of each case. Our Judge interpret these laws and the cases interpreting these laws in fluctuating manners depending on a number of factors, giving varying weight to the different factors cited in our, statutes, rules and case precedence. If you are interested in a comprehensive consultation on your rights in the state of Arizona as they pertain to covenant marriage Jensen Family Law can provide you with the answers you need. Please feel free to call (623) 889-7760 to schedule an appointment and discuss your options.