The applicable Arizona statute lists eight (8) bases for granting a decree of dissolution (divorce) to a covenant marriage. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-903. The first basis listed by the statute is the adultery of the respondent to the request for a decree of dissolution. § 25-903(1). It is important to note that the infidelity of the spouse seeking a divorce will not satisfy this requirement. See id.
The second basis listed by the statute is that “[t]he respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment in any federal, state, county or municipal correctional facility.” § 25-903(2). Similar to the first basis, the second basis is not concerned with the conduct of the spouse seeking a divorce and focuses on the conduct of the other spouse. See id.
The third basis listed by the statute is that “[t]he respondent spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage and refuses to return.” § 25-903(3). It is important to note that the statute does allow a spouse to begin a divorce action for this reason before the full year is up, so long as “the respondent spouse has left the matrimonial domicile and is expected to remain absent for the required period.” See id. This means that if the non-filing spouse has moved out of the marital home, and it is believed that the non-filing spouse will be absent for at least a year, there is a legal basis for seeking to dissolve the covenant marriage. See id. However, the court will not finalize the divorce until the full year has passed. See id. One potential benefit of starting such a divorce, even when there will be a delay in finalizing the decree of dissolution, is that the court can make temporary orders about finances during that wait period. See id.
The fourth basis listed by the statute is that “[t]he respondent spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the dissolution of marriage, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the matrimonial domicile or has committed domestic violence [as defined by Arizona statute] or emotional abuse.” § 25-903(4).
The fifth basis listed by the statute is that “[t]he spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage.” § 25-903(5). Unlike the third basis described above, either spouse can use the two (2) year period has a reason to dissolve the covenant marriage. Compare § 25-903(3) with § 25-903(5). On the other hand, similar to the third basis described above, the spouse seeking a divorce can start the action after the spouses have started living separately but before the two (2) years have completely passed, but the court will not finalize the divorce until the full period of time has passed. Compare § 25-903(3) with § 25-903(5).
Under the sixth basis identified in the statute, a divorce action may be brought when “[t]he spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least one year from the date the decree of legal separation was entered.” § 25-903(6) The key difference here is that the parties will have already been under an order of legal separation from a court for the full period of one (1) year without reconciling or living together. See id.
The seventh basis for the dissolution of the covenant marriage is that the “[t]he respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol” and the eighth basis is that the spouses “both agree to a dissolution of marriage.” See § 25-903(7); § 25-903(8).
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. The 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 council, 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.