A covenant marriage is a distinct type of union between a husband and wife in which the two formally agree to go through the marital counseling process before they wed, and before separating if problems arise in their marriage, in an attempt to save it, before proceeding to file for divorce. The type of marriage is only available in three states of the United States of America; Arkansas, Louisiana, and Arizona.
Purpose of Covenant Marriage
According to supporters of the covenant marriage, the institution means to frame marriage in a desirable and honorable light, strengthen couples’ relationships, reduce the frequency of divorce cases, reduce childbirth outside wedlock, and discourage couples from moving in together before marriage since the act is considered a sin.
Covenant marriage makes getting into marriage more challenging by setting up heightened conditions for entering wedlock or instituting divorce proceedings and accomplishing the divorce.
Difference Between a Traditional Marriage and a Covenant Marriage
The primary difference between a covenant marriage and a traditional marriage is in the manner through which the couples enter and end their union.
For a traditional marriage, it is easy to get into marriage and equally simple to divorce. Couples only need to purchase their marriage certificate, find two witnesses, and an authorized state agent to officiate the union. If the marriage turns awry, and they wish to separate, any party can file for divorce even under the no-fault laws. Parties can also apply for divorce at the first sign of trouble in their marriage.
A covenant marriage requires couples to undergo marital counseling before getting married. For the counseling sessions to proceed, the duo must sign an affidavit to which the counselor must attest. The counselor discusses the seriousness of the marriage covenant with the couple, and the required life commitment to it.
The couple agrees they are ready to fulfill the requirement of seeking further counseling in case problems arise in the future, and confirm they received a pamphlet of the legal requirements of a covenant marriage. The state grants the couple a marriage certificate once they furnish the affidavit and sign a declaration of their intent to enter into the covenant.
However, couples who were already married under a traditional marriage contract can convert to a covenant marriage by submitting a declaration of their intent and then seeking marital counseling.
Divorce in a Covenant Marriage
Although a covenant marriage places restrictions on divorce and requires couples to recognize their marriage as a life commitment, the parties can still divorce but under a set of conditions. The couple must first seek marital counseling and prove one or more circumstances necessitating the divorce as per the statutes.
The covenant marriage law specifies that parties can divorce in case of:
Adultery Drug or alcohol abuse If the couple has been living separately for two years If one party commits a felony or gets a death sentence or imprisonment Abandonment of marital residence for one year If the couple was legally separated for one year before the date of filing for divorce
A no-fault divorce cannot happen for couples in a covenant marriage.
The Bible recognizes the union of marriage and indicates it does not support a husband and wife joined together in matrimony divorcing.
In Matthew 19: 4-6, it says that ‘a man shall leave his father and mother and hold on to his wife, and the two will become one. They will no longer be two but one flesh. What, therefore, God has joined together, let no man separate.’
The union between a husband and wife shall be binding until death, although it indicates that a woman is free to remarry after her husband’s death, 1Corinthians 7: 39.
It further indicates in Luke 16: 18 that every man who divorces his wife and gets married to another, commits adultery. Also, any man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
However, the Bible allows one ground on which a partner can divorce. In Matthew 19: 9, it says that whoever divorces his wife for some reason other than sexual immorality and gets married to another woman, commits adultery.