On August 21, 1998, Arizona incorporated into statute a type of marriage called covenant marriage. Consenting adults applying for a marriage license in Arizona may indicate on their application that they wish the marriage to be a covenant marriage. The law can be found in ARS, Title 25, Chapter 7, Sections 25-901 through 25-906.
What Is a Covenant Marriage?
What does a covenant marriage mean, and why would a couple choose to do it? Essentially, it rules out a "no-fault" divorce. An individual cannot decide on his or her own to dissolve the marriage in the future, unless there are extenuating circumstances, outlined below. Covenant marriages are probably most common in situations where the couple is very religious, although technically religion does not play a part in the legal aspects of this marriage contract. It was intended to be a way to to strengthen the institution of marriage, strengthen families and reduce the divorce rate.
So few couples opt for covenant marriages that the overall impact of reducing divorce rates has not been achieved though.
How To Apply for a Covenant Marriage in Arizona
Under the Arizona Covenant Marriage Law of 1998, 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 submit an affidavit stating that they have received premarital counseling from a member of the clergy or from a marriage counselor, and notarized by that person, that includes a discussion of the seriousness of covenant marriage, that the marriage is a commitment for life, that they will seek marital counseling when necessary, and acknowledging the restrictions on how a covenant marriage can be ended.
If a married couple decides that they would like to change their existing marriage to a covenant marriage they may do so without counseling, by submitting an affidavit and a fee.
Can You Ever Get a Divorce?
A covenant marriage is more difficult to dissolve than a regular marriage. A court can only grant a divorce to a couple for one of these eight reasons:
- A spouse commits a felony and has been sentenced to death or incarceration.
- One spouse has abandoned the other for at least one year and refuses to return.
- One spouse has physically or sexually abused the other, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living with them, or has committed an act of domestic violence.
- The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years.
- The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least one year from the date of a legal separation.
- A spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.
- The husband and wife both agree to a divorce.
The reasons for obtaining a legal separation are slightly different, but also are limited.
Covenant Marriage in Arizona Booklet
The information above is somewhat abbreviated in order to provide an overview of the concept of covenant marriages. To see all the details involved, you may obtain a copy of the Covenant Marriage in Arizona booklet online, or you may contact a member of the clergy or a marriage counselor for a copy.