Is your marriage a covenant marriage? You have to tell us, but we can sometimes guess. If you’re very involved in your church, and were married by a minister or took classes before you married, you may be in a covenant marriage.
Since covenant marriage has a special legal status under Arkansas law, we have to be certain, and the best way to be sure is to obtain a copy of your marriage license. It is critical to know, because the divorce process is more complicated if you are in a covenant marriage.
Arkansas is one of the few states that allows covenant marriage.
Benefits And Consequences of Covenant Marriage
There is no legal or financial benefit to being married under the covenant statute. You are not “more” married in the eyes of the State of Arkansas or the general public if you signed the covenant agreement. Your benefit is derived emotionally and religiously from agreeing to additional marriage contract terms, namely terms that make it more difficult to get a divorce in the future.
If you’re thinking of marrying, we strongly recommend that you do not marry under the covenant marriage statute. Of course this does not mean that you cannot attend counseling, or get married in your church. It means that if you do ultimately need a divorce, you won’t have to pay more money or jump through more hoops to accomplish it.
No one marries with the intention of divorcing, but no one knows what the future holds. Unexpected things can happen, like alcoholism, abuse, and a multitiude of other things that justify divorce. If you are in a covenant marriage, that particular Arkansas law can make a difficult situation even worse.
Grounds For Divorce
To divorce a covenant marriage, you have to meet the same requirements as a regular marriage. Additionally, you have to attend marriage counseling and have grounds, which are more limited than the grounds under the regular marriage statute. Grounds for covenant marriage divorce are:
- Felony or other infamous crime conviction
- Physical or sexual abuse of one of your children
- Living separate and apart from your spouse for at least 2 years.
- Living separate and apart from your spouse for at least 2 years and 6 months, if you have a child
- Living separate and apart from your spouse for at least 1 year, if you have a child and your spouse abused you or the child
The longer separation requirements make child support, custody and visitation difficult. If you have a covenant marriage and are waiting out the separation requirements, we can file for separation to reduce to court order parameters for visitation, support, custody, alimony, etc. You still need a lawyer in the separation period.
Don’t despair. If you are married under the covenant marriage statute and you want a divorce, we can do that for you. Your spouse cannot stop a divorce from a covenant marriage any more than your spouse could stop a divorce from a regular marriage, it will just take longer and be more stressful, but we will be with you every step of the way giving guidance and encouragement.
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