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What is a Covenant Marriage in Arizona

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Covenant Marriages-How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help

In the state of Arizona, a covenant marriage is a type of marriage that goes beyond a typical union between two individuals. The purpose of a covenant marriage is to establish a more secure and lasting relationship based on a higher level of commitment and dedication.

Couples who wish to enter into a covenant marriage in Arizona must first apply for a marriage license and undergo counseling with a marriage counselor.

They must also agree that divorce can only be sought under limited circumstances.

This means that a couple in a covenant marriage must meet certain criteria and provide specific reasons if they wish to file for divorce. Covenant marriages are a unique option for those looking for a more serious and long-lasting commitment when getting married in Arizona, as they differ from the typical no-fault divorce system. 


We will cover the following topics

What Does ‘Covenant’ Mean in the Context of Marriage

In the context of marriage, particularly covenant marriage as recognized by Arizona law, the term “covenant” refers to a solemn, binding agreement between the spouses and, symbolically, with their community or religious entity, emphasizing a lifelong commitment to each other.

This concept is rooted in religious and moral values that view marriage as a sacred and enduring union.

What is a Covenant Marriage 

A covenant marriage in Arizona is a type of marriage that requires couples to undergo pre-marital counseling and agree to stricter limitations on divorce, distinguishing it from traditional marriages.

In covenant marriages, couples must sign a declaration of intent that outlines their commitment to the marriage and acceptance of limited grounds for divorce, such as adultery, felony conviction, or long-term separation, among others.

This form of marriage emphasizes durability and the mutual effort to maintain the marital relationship, appealing to those with strong religious or moral beliefs about the sanctity of marriage.

How to Apply in Arizona 

Applying for a covenant marriage in Arizona involves specific steps and adherence to legal requirements that emphasize the lifelong commitment of the partnership. Here’s a detailed guide on how to apply for a covenant marriage in the state:

Steps to Apply for a Covenant Marriage:

  • Legal Capacity to Marry: First, ensure that both parties have the legal capacity to marry according to Arizona law.

  • Application for a Marriage License: Couples must declare their intent to enter into a covenant marriage on their application for a marriage license, which is obtained under section 25-121.
  • Declaration of Intent: A critical part of the application is the declaration of intent. This declaration must include:
    1. A written statement by the couple affirming that marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, emphasizing their commitment to live together as husband and wife for life. The statement must acknowledge that they have chosen each other carefully, received premarital counseling, and understand the seriousness of entering a covenant marriage.
    2. An affidavit confirming they have received premarital counseling, which includes discussions on the seriousness of covenant marriage, the commitment for life, the need for marital counseling during marital difficulties, and the exclusive grounds for termination of the marriage.
  • Witness and Notarization: The signatures of both parties on the declaration must be witnessed by a court clerk. Additionally, a notarized attestation by the clergy member or counselor who provided the premarital counseling must be submitted. This attestation must confirm that the parties were counseled about the nature and purpose of marriage and the conditions under which it can be dissolved.
  • Filing Requirements: The completed application, along with the declaration of intent and the notarized attestation, must be filed with the clerk of the court. The returned marriage license will be recorded with an indication that it is a covenant marriage.

Additional Legal Details:

  • Documentation: The clerk is responsible for documenting that the attestation was submitted and ensuring all legal paperwork is accurately filed.
  • Informational Pamphlet: The parties must be provided with an informational pamphlet developed by the Supreme Court, which outlines the nature of covenant marriages, their legal implications, and the grounds for their dissolution.

These steps are designed to ensure that couples fully understand the commitment they are making and are prepared for the unique aspects of a covenant marriage, which is intended to be a lifelong commitment with specified legal requirements for dissolution.

Can You Convert a Traditional Marriage to a Covenant 

In Arizona, couples who are already married under a traditional marriage can choose to convert their marriage into a covenant marriage. This conversion process allows couples to enter into a covenant marriage without the need to remarry or undergo new ceremonies.

Steps to Convert a Traditional Marriage to a Covenant Marriage:

  • Declaration of Intent: The couple must submit a declaration of intent to the clerk of the superior court. This declaration should comply with the requirements set out in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-901, subsection B, paragraphs 1 and 3, indicating their decision to convert their marriage into a covenant marriage. 
  • Sworn Statement: Alongside the declaration, the couple needs to provide a sworn statement that includes their names and the date and place where their marriage was initially contracted.
  • Payment of Fees: A fee, as prescribed in Section 12-284, subsection A, must be paid at the time of application.
  • Filing and Certification: The clerk of the superior court is responsible for filing all the necessary documentation and will issue a certificate that documents the conversion from a traditional to a covenant marriage.

Legal Considerations:

  • No Premarital Counseling Required: Unlike the process for entering a new covenant marriage, couples converting an existing marriage are not required to receive the premarital counseling typically mandated for covenant marriages. 
  • No Need for a New Ceremony: The conversion process does not require the marriage to be separately solemnized; the legal status change is recognized through the administrative process.
  • Validity of the Marriage: It is important to note that converting to a covenant marriage does not alter the legal validity of the original marriage. The marriage must already be valid under Arizona law, and conversion does not rectify any aspect of a marriage that is otherwise prohibited or not validly contracted in the state.

This conversion process allows married couples to reaffirm their commitment to each other under the specific terms and protections offered by a covenant marriage, without the need for additional ceremonial steps.

Grounds for Divorce in a Covenant Marriage 

In Arizona, divorcing within the framework of a covenant marriage requires adherence to specific, stringent grounds. These grounds are designed to uphold the commitment inherent in a covenant marriage, ensuring that divorces are granted only under serious circumstances:

  1. Adultery: Divorce can be granted if one spouse has committed adultery, violating the marital fidelity.

  2. Felony Conviction: If a spouse has been convicted of a felony and sentenced to death or imprisonment, it forms a valid ground for divorce.

  3. Abandonment: A divorce may be pursued if one spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the divorce filing and refuses to return.

  4. Abuse: Physical or sexual abuse of a spouse, child, or any relative living permanently in the matrimonial home, or the commission of domestic violence, including emotional abuse, are grounds for divorce.

  5. Continuous Separation Without Reconciliation: If the spouses have lived separately continuously without any reconciliation for at least two years, this condition qualifies as a ground for divorce.

  6. Separation After Legal Separation: Living separately for at least one year from the date the decree of legal separation was entered also serves as a ground for divorce.

  7. Habitual Drug or Alcohol Abuse: If one spouse habitually abuses drugs or alcohol, this can be used as a basis for divorce.

  8. Mutual Agreement: The spouses may mutually agree to a dissolution of marriage, which is also recognized as a valid ground for divorce in a covenant marriage.

These grounds reflect the commitment of covenant marriage to maintain marital stability unless significant and justifiable reasons for dissolution are present.

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

Get Help From a Family Law Paraprofessional

At De Novo Law, our experienced family law legal paraprofessionals specialize in assisting clients with the unique aspects of covenant marriages in Arizona.

Whether you are considering entering into a covenant marriage, converting your traditional marriage into a covenant marriage, or obtaining a divorce under a covenant marriage, our team is well-equipped to guide you through the process.

We provide comprehensive support that ensures all legal requirements are met, from the necessary pre-marital counseling and filing of the declaration of intent to handling the specific legal grounds required for divorce in a covenant marriage. Trust our professionals to provide the expertise and sensitivity needed during these significant life decisions. 

For more information about our services or to schedule a consultation, you can also reach us directly at (480) 725-2200 .

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