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Covenant marriage in Arizona

On August 21, 1998, Arizona entered into statute a type of marriage called a covenant marriage. Consenting adults applying for a marriage license in Arizona can indicate on their application that they want 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 so? Essentially, you rule out a “no fault” divorce. An individual cannot decide for himself to dissolve the marriage in the future, unless there are extenuating circumstances, which are detailed below. Covenant marriages are probably the most common in situations where the couple is highly religious, although religion does not technically play a role in the legal aspects of this marriage contract. It was intended to be a way 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.

How to Apply for a Covenant Marriage in Arizona

Pursuant to the Arizona Covenant Marriage Act of 1998, a couple wishing to enter into a covenant marriage must take the following steps:

1. The couple must agree, in writing, to the following:

We solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife as long as they both live. We have carefully chosen and 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 are committed to making all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marriage counseling.

In full knowledge of what this commitment means, we declare that our marriage will be subject to 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 a marriage counselor, and notarized by that person, including a discussion of the seriousness of covenant marriage, that marriage is a commitment for life, who will seek marriage counseling when necessary, and recognize the restrictions on how a covenant marriage can be terminated.

If a married couple decides that they would like to change their current marriage to a covenant marriage, they can 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 normal marriage. A court can only grant a couple a divorce for one of these eight reasons:

  1. Adultery
  2. A spouse commits a serious crime and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment.
  3. One spouse has abandoned the other for at least a year and refuses to return.
  4. A spouse has physically or sexually abused the other, a child, a relative of either spouse who lives permanently with them, or has committed an act of domestic violence.
  5. The spouses have been living separately and separated continuously without reconciliation for at least two years.
  6. The spouses have been living separately and continuously separated without reconciliation for at least one year from the date of a legal separation.
  1. A spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.
  2. The husband and wife agree to the divorce.

The reasons for obtaining a legal separation are slightly different, but they are also limited.

Booklet on Covenant Marriage in Arizona

The information above is abbreviated somewhat to provide an overview of the concept of covenant marriages. To see all the details involved, you can get a copy of the Covenant Marriage in Arizona brochure online, or you can contact a clergy member or marriage counselor for a copy.

Only three states (as of 2015) allow covenant marriages: Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Only about one percent of eligible couples choose a covenant marriage. In Arizona, it is even less than that.

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