Divorce in a Covenant Marriage

If you live in Arizona, you may not even be aware that you live in one of only 3 states that allow covenant marriages.  Unfamiliar with what a covenant marriage is? Don’t worry, you are not alone.  According to the Arizona Supreme Court, a covenant marriage is defined as, “To enter into a covenant marriage, the couple first must have counseling (called “premarital counseling”) from a member of the clergy or a marriage counselor. Then, when applying for a license to be married, both persons must show their intention to enter into a covenant marriage by signing a special statement (or “declaration”) on the application form. In a covenant marriage, legal separation or divorce (in Arizona, a “dissolution of marriage”) may be granted by the court only for specific reasons listed in state law.” This type of marriage is more typically entered into for religious reasons but can be obtained by anyone that so desires.

Though this type of marriage is designed to reduce the risk of divorce, covenant marriages may still end for various reasons. And, because they are legally different than traditional marriage, there is a different legal process to obtain a divorce in a covenant marriage. In the event of a covenant marriage divorce, both spouses must agree to complete marital counseling before they can obtain a divorce.  The spouse filing for divorce must also prove that one of the following circumstances has occurred: the other member has committed adultery, the other member has regularly abused drugs or alcohol, the other member has abused his or her spouse or their children, the other member has committed a felon and has ben sentenced to death or imprisonment, the couple has been living apart for a number of years, or if both parties simply agree to a divorce.  Because fault must be proven, this type of divorce tends to take longer, be more costly, and tends to be more tense.

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