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THE COVENANT MARRIAGE MOVEMENT

Attempts to pass state legislation

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Sponsored link.

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Current status of covenant marriage:

According to Americans for Divorce Reform, by  mid 2006, covenant marriages are only available in Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana. However, the Arizona law does not define a "true" covenant marriage because it allows divorce if "the husband and wife both agree...

Legislation is (or has been) actively proposed in at least Alabama, California, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington state. 1

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1997: Louisiana Covenant Marriage Act:

Louisiana became the first state to offer covenant marriages. The marriage act was changed on 1997-JUL-15 and came into effect on 1997-AUG-15. It requires couples to complete a statement of intent, recite a declaration, prove that they have gone through pre-marital counseling. There is a provision in the law so that already-married couples can convert their relationship to a covenant marriage. More details.

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1998: Arizona Covenant Marriage Law:

Senate bill 1133 is titled the "Arizona Covenant Marriage Law of 1998." 2 It was signed into law by the Governor on 1998-MAY-21, and came into effect on AUG-21. It requires:

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The couple to sign a declaration in which they state that:
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They regard marriage as a lifelong relationship.

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They have chosen each other carefully .

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They have received pre-marital counseling.

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If they experience marital difficulties, they commit themselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve their marriage, including counseling.

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They promise to love, honor and care for one another until death.

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The couple to prove that they have completed marital counseling.

A divorce for a spouse in a covenant marriage may only be granted upon proof that the other spouse has:

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Committed adultery, or

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Habitually abused drugs or alcohol, or

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Been imprisoned for a felony, or

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Has abandoned the home for at least 12 months before the spouse files for divorce, and refuses to return, or

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Committed physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, or emotional abuse against their spouse, a child, or a relative living in the home.

An alternative ground for divorce is separation for a period of time (12, or 24 months, depending upon various criteria).

Even if the above grounds are not present, a divorce may be granted if both spouses agree to a dissolution of their marriage.

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A spouse in a covenant marriage can obtain a judgment of judicial separation if they have first obtained counseling and if:
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The other spouse has committed adultery, has been imprisoned for a felony, has committed domestic violence or physical, emotional or sexual abuse of the spouse, a child, or a relative who lives in the home, or

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They have been living apart without reconciliation for 24 months, or

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The other spouse has rendered their living together insupportable due to habitual intemperance or ill treatment, or

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The other spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.

The law provides a procedure whereby a couple who are already married may declare theirs to be a covenant marriage. They do not have to provide proof of marital counseling.

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2001: Arkansas:  Covenant Marriage Act :

The divorce rate in Arkansas is one of the highest in the U.S.  Legislators were motivated to create provision for covenant marriages as an effort to reduce the rate of marriage failure.

House Bill 2039 is titled "Covenant Marriage Act of 2001." 3 It become law in 2001. It provides for:

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Marriage licenses to have a statement of intent to be completed by one or both spouses that the "...declare our intent to contract a Covenant Marriage..."

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Spouses to sign a declaration of a covenant marriage in which they state that:
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They regard marriage as a lifelong relationship.

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They have received pre-marital counseling.

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They have read the Covenant marriage Act of 2001.

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If they experience marital difficulties, they commit themselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve their marriage, including counseling.

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They promise to love, honor and care for one another until death.

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A divorce for a spouse in a covenant marriage may only be granted upon proof that the other spouse has:
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Committed adultery, or

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Been imprisoned for a felony or "other infamous crime," or

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Committed sexual or physical abuse on a spousal or child.

An alternative ground is separation for a period of time (12, 24 or 30 months, depending upon various criteria).

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A spouse in a covenant marriage can obtain a judgment of judicial separation if they have first obtained counseling and if:
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The other spouse has committed adultery, has been imprisoned for a felony, or has physically or sexually abused the spouse or a child, or

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They have been living apart without reconciliation for 24 months, or,

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The other spouse has rendered their condition intolerable, for example by habitual drunkenness for one year, or by "cruel and barbarous treatment."

Already-married couples may designate their marriage to be a covenant marriage.

One wonders what the definition of an "infamous crime" is.

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Sponsored link:

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2002: Oklahoma: House Bill 2461:

In an effort to reduce Oklahoma's high divorce rate, Rep. Ray Vaughan, (R-Edmond), and Sen. Owen Laughlin, (R-Woodward) introduced house bill 2461 into the Oklahoma Legislature. Oklahoma typically has the second or third highest divorce rate in the U.S. The bill passed both the House (by a vote of 91 to 6) and the Senate. If signed into law, the  bill would have enabled heterosexual engaged couples to choose to have a covenant marriage. The existing laws on marriage would be retained, so that couples could also choose to have a regular marriage which allows for no-fault divorce.

The covenant marriage law would have required couples who choose this path to seek premarital counseling. They would have had to give a declaration of intent before they married. If their marriage starts to disintegrate, they would first seek counseling. Divorce would still be allowed, on grounds of abandonment for one year, separation for 18 months, adultery, mental or physical abuse or fraud. However, divorce for incompatibility would no longer be available.  The state would have written and printed a "Guide for Covenant Marriages."

Mike Jestes, executive director of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council, said "Covenant marriage in Oklahoma will be a choice to strengthen commitment between couples, and give you a chance to say, prior to marriage, 'Let's get some solid counseling, and if for any reason during this marriage we decide we have some problems, let's don't get out of it without really counseling.' " 6,7 Of course, a couple can always decide to engage in pre-marital counseling and then choose to have a "regular" marriage.

By 2002-MAY-9, the House and Senate versions of the bill still had to be harmonized in a conference committee. Several senators who had earlier voted for the bill changed their minds during the conference committee. The bill was killed by only one vote.  8

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2004: Iowa: Premarital Counseling Bill:

In 2002, a covenant marriage bill was passed by the Iowa Senate, but did not proceed.

In 2004-MAR, a covenant bill H.J. 467.2 was introduced into the House. It had most of its features stripped away through a long series of amendments. This left a bill with two main provisions:

bulletA couple could get married after a three day waiting period after obtaining their license if they had undergone at least 12 hours of premarital counseling by a counselor acceptable to the state. Without counseling, the waiting period would be 20 days.
bulletThe couples file a parenting plan if they divorce or separate and have minor children.

The bill passed the house 77 to 20. It passed the senate 33 to 14. But the governor vetoed the bill on 2004-MAY-14.

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Note:

The above descriptions are a general overview of covenant marriage. Do not base any personal decisions on them. First, read the actual laws in your state or consult a lawyer who is skilled in family law.

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Site navigation:

Home > "Hot" topics > Marriage > Covenant marriage > here

Home > Religious info > Basic religious info > Religious practices > Marriage > Covenant > here

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References:

  1. "Covenant Marriage Links," at Americans for Divorce Reform, at: http://www.divorcereform.org/
  2. "Senate Bill 1133," at: http://www.divorcereform.org/
  3. "House Bill 2039," at: http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/ You need software to read this file. It can be obtained free from:
  4. "New Louisiana Covenant Marriage Law," at: http://patriot.net/~crouch/cov/index.html 
  5. "Opportuning virtue: Covenant Marriages, the Louisiana Experience, and Beyond," at: http://www.gwu.edu/
  6. Kristie Rutherford, "Okla. considers covenant marriage," Focus on the Family, 2002-MAY-9, at: http://www.family.org/
  7. "Legislative Update," Oklahoma Family Policy Council, at: http://www.okfamilypc.org/
  8. Kristie Rutherford, "Okla. Marriage Bill Killed: A bill designed to strengthen marriage in Oklahoma has died." Focus on the Family, 2002-JUN-5, at: http://www.family.org/
  9. "House File 2455 -- An act establishing marriage and domestic relations requirements and providing an effective date," Iowa legislature, at: http://www.legis.state.ia.us/
  10. "Covenant Marriage in Arizona," Arizona Supreme Court, 2003, at: http://www.supreme.state.az.us/

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Copyright © 2001 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-DEC-13
Latest update: 2006-AUG-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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