Covenant Marriages in Arizona

Arizona is generally referred to as “no fault” state when it comes to divorce matters. That is, generally only one party must declare that their marriage is “irretrievable broken” in order for the Court to enter a divorce, assuming of course other jurisdictional factors are met, which are not set forth for purpose of this article. One can see then that generally it is pretty easy to have a divorce granted if the standard is only that the marriage is “irretrievable broken”.

That said, Arizona law does allow for parties to agree that more rigid requirements will need to be demonstrated before the Court is able to enter a requested divorce. This higher standard of marriage is known in Arizona as a “covenant”.

Marrying couples can request or declare their intent to enter into a covenant marriage on their application for a marriage license. Those couples must also comply with certain requirements. Once those requirements are met, assuming the parties in fact marry, then their marriage, will be deemed a “covenant”.

A court can only divorce couples who have a covenant marriage, for specified causes, to include:

  • The respondent spouse has committed adultery.
  • The respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment in any federal, state, county or municipal correctional facility.
  • The respondent spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage and refuses to return. A party may file a petition based on this ground by alleging that the respondent spouse has left the matrimonial domicile and is expected to remain absent for the required period. If the respondent spouse has not abandoned the matrimonial domicile for the required period at the time of the filing of the petition, the action shall not be dismissed for failure to state sufficient grounds and the action shall be stayed for the period of time remaining to meet the grounds based on abandonment, except that the court may enter and enforce temporary orders during the time that the action is pending.
  • The 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 or emotional abuse.
  • The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage. A party may file a petition based on this ground by alleging that it is expected that the parties will be living separate and apart for the required period. If the parties have not been separated for the required period at the time of the filing of the petition, the action shall not be dismissed for failure to state sufficient grounds and the action shall be stayed for the period of time remaining to meet the grounds based on separation, except that the court may enter and enforce temporary orders during the time that the action is pending.
  • The 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.
  • The respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.

Covenant marriages then, as outlined above, require some justification or “cause” be demonstrated before the Court can enter a divorce. The purpose of covenant marriages may be to promote couples to work on their marriages. Whatever the purpose, it is clear that covenant marriages are complex and require attention to detail. For that reason if you or anyone you know is contemplating entering into a covenant marriage and/or needs representation in a covenant marriage divorce process, please contact our experienced Arizona family law attorneys today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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