As of August 21, 1998, Arizona incorporated into statute a type of marriage called covenant marriage. Consenting adults applying for a marriage license in Arizona may indicate on their application that they wish the marriage to be a covenant marriage. The law can be found in Sections 25-901 through 25-906 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.
Under the Arizona Covenant Marriage Law of 1998, a couple wishing to enter into a covenant marriage must take the following actions:
1 - The couple must agree, in writing, as follows:
- We solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for as long as they both live. We have chosen each other carefully and have received premarital counseling on the nature, purposes and responsibilities of marriage. We understand that a covenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling. With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do declare that our marriage will be bound by Arizona law on covenant marriages and we promise to love, honor and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.
2 - The couple must execute an affidavit stating that they have received premarital counseling from a member of the clergy or from a marriage counselor. Premarital counseling shall include a discussion of the seriousness of covenant marriage, communication of the fact that a covenant marriage is a commitment for life, a discussion of the obligation to seek marital counseling in times of marital difficulties, and a discussion of the exclusive grounds for legally terminating a covenant marriage by dissolution of marriage or legal separation.
3 - The couple must obtain a notarized statement from the clergy member or counselor that performed the counseling.
If a married couple decides that they would like to change their existing marriage to a covenant marriage, sign a marriage license affidavit and a "Declaration of Intent to Enter Into a Covenant Marriage" form at the Marriage License Office.
A covenant marriage is more difficult to dissolve than a 'regular' marriage. A court can only grant a divorce to a couple for one of these eight reasons:
- A spouse commits adultery.
- A spouse commits a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment.
- A spouse has abandoned the other for at least one year before the filing for divorce, and refuses to return.
- A spouse has physically or sexually abused the other, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living with them, or has committed domestic violence emotional abuse.
- The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the filing for divorce.
- The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least one year from the date of a legal separation.
- A spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.
- The husband and wife both agree to a dissolution of marriage.
The reasons for obtaining a legal separation are slightly different, but also are limited.
Covenant Marriage in Arizona Booklet
The information above is somewhat abbreviated in order to provide an overview of the concept behind covenant marriages. To see all the details involved, you may obtain a copy of the Covenant Marriage in Arizona booklet online, or you may contact a member of the clergy or a marriage counselor for a copy.
Only three states allow covenant marriages: Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana. Only about 1 percent of eligible couples choose a covenant marriage.