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What is a Covenant Marriage in Arizona?

In 1998, Arizona became one of a small handful of jurisdictions in the United States that recognize a legally distinct type of marriage, called a “covenant marriage”, which requires a special license from the state and limits the grounds for divorce or legal separation. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-901 et seq.

Typically, in a no-fault state like Arizona, the divorcing spouse does not need to prove the fault of the other spouse to justify a divorce or legal separation. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-312(3); ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 313(3). Instead, in Arizona, the divorcing spouse only needs to claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken to justify a divorce or legal separation. See id. However, in a case involving a covenant marriage, Arizona statute prohibits the court from entering a decree of dissolution (which grants a divorce) or an order of legal separation (which grants a legal separation), unless the court finds that one or more of statutorily prescribed legal bases have been found. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-903; ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-904.

In Arizona, a covenant marriage license is only issued after the parties have completed premarital counseling. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-901. The prescribed premarital counseling must “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.” § 25-901(B).

Couples that are already married can convert their marriage into a covenant marriage. See § 25-902. “A husband and wife who apply for a covenant marriage conversion . . . are not required to receive premarital counseling . . . .” § 25-902. Additionally, “[a] husband and wife who apply for a covenant marriage conversion . . . are not required to have the converted covenant marriage separately solemnized . . . .”, which means that they do not have to have a second wedding ceremony. See § 25-902.

If you or a loved one has questions about understanding, creating, or ending a covenant marriage in Arizona, we encourage you to contact Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC today to set up a consultation. Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC is a boutique law firm, situated in Phoenix, Arizona. Th firm provides legal services in all areas of Arizona family law, and offers legal representation services in many of the surrounding areas outside of Maricopa County, such as Pinal County, Pima County, Yavapai County, and beyond!

Disclaimer: This publication is for educational and informational purposes only, and represents Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC’s understanding of the present state of Arizona law. This publication does not constitute legal advice or counsel, and should not be construed as a comment on the merits of any particular case. It should be noted that the laws and requirements of the State of Arizona may change at any time and that this information may not be complete or correct.