Covenant Marriage and Divorce
A Covenant Marriage establishes additional requirements that must be met before a couple is officially married in Arizona. If the couple later chooses to Divorce, the unique stipulations of a Covenant Marriage mean the divorce process becomes much more difficult compared to a couple who chose a traditional marriage. There are specific legal requirements that must be met before a couple in a Covenant Marriage can be granted a Divorce in Arizona.
Many couples who choose a Covenant Marriage make this particular choice based on religious reasons. Covenant Marriages are often meant to show how committed the couple is to one other. Since this commitment is key to those who prefer a Covenant Marriage, this type of marriage also restricts the situations in which the couple can divorce.
To enter into a Covenant Marriage, the spouses must:
- Attend Premarital Counseling.
- Apply for a Marriage License.
- Declare that they intend to live together as husband and wife for life.
- Commit to make all reasonable efforts to protect the marriage, including attending marital counseling if they experience marital difficulties.
- Sign an Attestation Affidavit: The couple must submit a Notarized Attestation from their Licensed Marriage Counselor or clergy member. This is to confirm that the couple completed Premarital Counseling and understands the seriousness of this type of marriage. The affidavit also states that couples:
- Discussed the sanctity of marriage with the counselor.
- Understand that Covenant Marriages are a commitment for life.
- Understand that they should seek marriage counseling for difficulties.
- Understand there are only a few reasons they can seek Divorce.
- Reviewed the Covenant Marriage pamphlet with the counselor or the member of the clergy marrying them.
Traditional marriages in Arizona allow for “no-fault Divorces,” which means a couple can terminate their marriage without any wrongdoing by either party. A no-fault Divorce is not available in a Covenant Marriage, Instead, the couple in a Covenant Marriage can only Divorce for the following reasons under A.R.S. § 25-903:
- The non-filing spouse is guilty of Adultery.
- The non-filing spouse has committed a felony and received a prison or death sentence.
- The non-filing spouse abuses alcohol and/or drugs, which creates an unhealthy living situation for the petitioner.
- The marital home has been abandoned by the non-filing spouse for more than a year.
- The petitioning spouse or the children are the victim of Domestic Violence or sexual/emotional abuse by the non-filing spouse.
- The couple has not lived together for two years or more.
- The couple was previously granted a Legal Separation by a Superior Court, and the couple has not resided together in their marital home for a year or more.
Both the husband and wife agree to the Divorce (if the Divorce is contested by either spouse, the process is prolonged).