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Covenant marriage, a unique type of marriage available to couples in Arizona, represents a significant commitment with distinct legal implications.

In Arizona, less than 1% of marriages are covenant marriages, reflecting their specialized nature and the commitments they entail.

This article examines covenant marriages in Arizona, providing couples with critical information to make informed decisions about entering or dissolving such a marriage.

Here’s what this article will cover:

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covenant marriage

What is an Arizona Covenant Marriage?

A covenant marriage in Arizona allows couples to express their intention to be bound together for life.

To enter such a marriage, both parties must undergo pre-marital counseling and sign a declaration of intent. This declaration includes a pledge to make all efforts to preserve the marriage, including undergoing marital counseling, should difficulties arise.

Pre-marital counseling is an element of a covenant marriage

What are the Elements of a Covenant Marriage?

The elements of a covenant marriage in Arizona include:

➤ Pre-marital counseling

Couples must attend and complete counseling that emphasizes the nature and purposes of marriage.

➤ Declaration of Intent

Couples must sign a document stating their commitment to permanent marriage at their wedding.

➤ Limited grounds for divorce

Unlike standard marriages, covenant marriages restrict the acceptable grounds for seeking a divorce, as outlined in A.R.S. 25-903.

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What are the Disadvantages of a Covenant Marriage?

While covenant marriage may appeal to those with strong religious or moral beliefs about marriage permanence, there are disadvantages:

  • Limited flexibility: The restricted grounds for divorce can make it difficult to leave a marriage, even in problematic circumstances.
  • Legal complexities: Dissolving a covenant marriage can involve more legal hurdles, potentially leading to longer, more contentious divorce proceedings.

Dissolution of a covenant marriage

Do Covenant Marriages Make Divorce More Difficult?

Yes, covenant marriages complicate the divorce process.

Parties can only seek divorce for specific reasons such as adultery, abandonment, physical or sexual abuse, or long-term drug/alcohol abuse.

The requirement for proof and potentially mandatory counseling adds layers to what can already be an emotionally taxing process.

How Can You Get A Divorce In A Covenant Marriage?

Obtaining a divorce in a covenant marriage in Arizona requires adherence to more stringent legal standards compared to traditional marriage.

Under A.R.S. 25-903, a spouse seeking divorce must prove one of the designated grounds.

Here’s a closer look at each ground, complete with illustrative examples to help you understand the scenarios that might qualify:

Adultery

Adultery occurs when one spouse engages in a sexual relationship outside the marriage. For instance, if John discovers that his wife has been maintaining a romantic relationship with her colleague, including evidence of text messages and hotel receipts, this could serve as sufficient ground for divorce under the adultery clause.

Felony Conviction

A divorce can be granted if one spouse is convicted of a felony during the marriage, which implies a significant breach of marital trust. For example, if Sarah’s husband is convicted and sentenced to prison for participating in a bank robbery, Sarah can file for divorce based on this ground.

Abandonment

Abandonment is defined as one spouse leaving the marital home for at least one year without the intention of returning and without the other spouse’s consent. An example would be if Michael leaves his wife and children, relocates to another state, and ceases communication for over a year without the intention to return.

Physical or Sexual Abuse

This ground covers instances where one spouse inflicts physical pain or injury or commits sexual assault against the other spouse or children in the family. For instance, if Emma is subjected to repeated domestic violence assaults by her husband, evidenced by medical reports and witness testimony, she can seek a divorce on these grounds.

Living Apart

Couples in a covenant marriage can also divorce if they live separate and apart without reconciliation for at least two consecutive years. This period demonstrates a clear and sustained separation. For example, if Chris and his wife decide to live separately, maintaining different residences and independent lives for over two years, this condition would be met.

General Incompatibility

General incompatibility can only be claimed if both parties agree. It implies that both spouses concur that their marriage is irretrievably broken despite any attempts at reconciliation. An example here could be Lisa and Tom, who mutually agree that their differences are irreconcilable after years of counseling and effort and decide to part ways amicably.

Each of these grounds for a dissolution of marriage requires specific evidence and legal procedures to be followed, making the guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney crucial to navigating this complex process effectively.

 

Can You Get Legally Separated When in a Covenant Marriage?

Legal separation in a covenant marriage in Arizona is possible, but due to the nature of the agreement that defines such marriages, it follows similar stringent criteria as divorce.

As with divorce, parties seeking a legal separation must provide specific grounds as Arizona law mandates. 

Under A.R.S. 25-903, the same grounds required for a divorce in a covenant marriage apply to legal separation.

These include adultery, felony conviction, abandonment, physical or sexual abuse, living apart for an extended period, or general incompatibility if both parties agree.

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Divorce Attorneys in Phoenix AZ

Navigating the complexities of a covenant marriage and its dissolution requires expert legal support.

At the Law Office of Daniel Hutto, our family law attorneys are deeply familiar with Arizona’s unique challenges and requirements of covenant marriages. 

Whether you are considering entering into a covenant marriage, seeking a divorce, or need guidance on legal separation, our team is here to assist you every step of the way and ensure compliance with all specific provisions of Arizona law.

Schedule a consultation via our website at or call us directly at 602 536-7878.

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