DO YOU HAVE A COVENANT MARRIAGE? The Law, Your Church, and Your Marriage

Category: Family Law

As an Arizona State Bar Certified Specialist in family law matters in Arizona, there are a few questions that seem to confuse most litigants. In every divorce, the parties must indicate whether the Wife is pregnant.  At a final divorce trial, the question must be asked each time.  I recall as a very young “baby attorney” having one of my first trials.  I represented woman who was in her 70s or 80s at the time.  I had failed to prepare her ahead of time, and when I asked her “are you currently pregnant?” the look in her eyes clearly articulated to me “are you stupid?”  I appreciated the Judge stepping in and pointing out to her that this was simply a required question.  I quickly learned that such odd questions are much easier to deal with if they are addressed with the client ahead of the trial.

Second only to the “are you pregnant” question, litigants are often confused when asked if they have a “covenant marriage.”  The short answer is, that if you know what a “covenant marriage” is, you likely have one, but if you have never heard of a “covenant marriage” you likely do not have one.

Arizona is one of only a few states (Louisiana and Arkansas are the only other two that I am aware of) that offer a covenant marriage.  Prior to marriage, the spouses can agree to take certain pre-marriage counseling, and can opt into a “covenant marriage.”  By opting in, the parties agree to limited grounds if either later seek a divorce.  Without a “covenant marriage” Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, and either party can obtain a divorce by stating that they believe the marriage to be “irretrievably broken with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.”  Without a covenant marriage, neither party must assert that the other party is at fault.  With a covenant marriage, there are only limited avenues to get a divorce, which include a mutual agreement by both parties to get a divorce, adultery by one of the parties, serious domestic violence, or that the parties have lived apart for a certain amount of time.

To obtain a “covenant marriage” the parties must apply for a covenant marriage license, and declare their intentions to enter into a “covenant marriage.”

This is not to be confused with a religious marriage, which is often under a religious covenant.  Arizona secular law acknowledges and accepts religiously performed marriages, but this does not fall under the legal definition of a “covenant marriage” as discussed here.

If you are involved in a divorce, legal separation, or annulment case or other family law case, whether it is a covenant marriage or not, and if you have determined that you need experienced legal representation, please call 480 733-6800 and ask to speak with Douglas C. Gardner, or visit our family law page on our website at: