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What is a covenant marriage?

UPDATED: February 20, 2013

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First adopted in Louisiana in 1997 as an effort to control divorce rates and protect children, covenant marriages are an option presented to a couple before they wed that makes it more difficult to end the union.

Understanding a Covenant Marriage

A covenant marriage is simply a formal or solemn agreement. The term is often used in a religious context, but not always. When a couple enters into a covenant marriage, it simply means that the couple has promised to give certain things a try in order to attempt to save the marriage before officially going through with a divorce, should something go wrong in the future. Essentially:

  • The “covenant” being agreed upon says that the couple will go through certain processes specified in the agreement in the event one of them desires a divorce.
  • A covenant marriage agreement requires the couple to undergo premarital counseling before getting married and later, if problems develop, they are required to attend marital counseling in order to try to solve conflicts before dissolving the marriage.

Though no-fault divorces are not permitted when a couple enters into a covenant marriage, a couple legally married via a covenant marriage can divorce after a two-year separation or if one spouse is guilty of certain behaviors including:

  • Adultery
  • Physical or sexual abuse of the other spouse or a child
  • Abandoning the home
  • Being convicted of a felony

These are basically “deal-breaker” situations and the spouse who was on the other end of the actions will not be required to meet any agreements of the covenant before seeking, and typically being granted, a divorce.

Converting to Covenant Marriage

It is possible for couples that are already married to convert their marriage to a covenant marriage. Doing so is a matter of filing legal paperwork and typically undergoing counseling at the time of the conversion. Several other states have considered or proposed covenant marriages as an option to the more traditional, easy-to-get-out-of contracts, but no legislation has passed in other states as of 2011.

Benefits of Covenant Marriages

A covenant marriage can benefit the couple themselves not only by giving them a chance to avoid divorce, but also by limiting legal battles should a divorce take place. The covenant does require certain efforts to be made in the event a divorce is desired, but once those requirements are met, the legal path to divorce is typically smooth, since the covenant is a form of legal proof that the couple gave a good faith effort before choosing to divorce.

Getting Help

To get help understanding covenant marriages or for more information about your marriage and divorce rights, it is in your best interests to speak with a lawyer in your local area.

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