The Covenant Marriage became law in Louisiana , Arizona , and Arkansas . Other states have tried to enact Covenant Marriage laws since then but none has succeeded. Here we’ll look at the more significant commonalities from each state’s law and at Arkansas’s marriage & divorce statistics to determine if reducing divorce was achieved.
THE DECLARATION of INTENT
All three states require a Declaration of Intent…they are all almost exactly the same [differences noted]:
“We do solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for so [AZ: as] long as they both may [AR, LA] live. We have chosen each other carefully and disclosed to one another everything which could adversely affect the decision to enter into this marriage. We [AR, LA] have received [AR: authorized] premarital counseling on the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of marriage. We have read the Covenant Marriage Act [AR, LA] of 2001 [AR only] and we [AR, LA] understand that a covenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling.
With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do hereby [AR, LA] declare that our marriage will be bound by – – [state] – – law on covenant marriages and we promise to love, honor, and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.”
DESIGNATING an EXISTING MARRIAGE as a COVENANT MARRIAGE
All three states have a provision to designate existing marriages as Covenant Marriages:
Arizona law requires only a Declaration of Intent; premarital counseling is specifically not required.
Arkansas & Louisiana laws are almost exactly the same; they both require the following:
A recitation by the parties [the Declaration of Intent].
An affidavit by the parties that they discussed their intent to designate their marriage as a Covenant Marriage with a counselor which included a discussion of the obligation to seek marital counseling in times of marital difficulties and the exclusive grounds for legally terminating a Covenant Marriage.
An attestation acknowledging that the counselor provided to the parties the informational pamphlet that provides a full explanation of the terms and conditions of a Covenant Marriage.
- [AR, LA] “Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, and subsequent to the parties obtaining authorized [AR only] counseling, a spouse to a covenant marriage may obtain a judgment of divorce only upon proof of any of the following”:
[AZ only] “Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, if a husband and wife have entered into a covenant marriage…the court shall not enter a decree of dissolution of marriage…unless it finds any of the following”:
Commission of a Felony and was Sentenced to Death or Imprisonment
Physical or Sexual Abuse of a Spouse, or a Child of One of the Spouses [AZ adds Domestic Violence and Emotional Abuse]
The Spouses have been Living Separate and Apart Continuously without Reconciliation for 2 Years.
Husband & Wife Both Agree to a Dissolution of Marriage.
[AZ only] Habitual Abuse of Alcohol or Drugs
In addition to the grounds for divorce,
- [AR] Addiction to Habitual Drunkenness for one year; Cruel and Barbarous Treatment as to Endanger the Life of a Spouse; Offer Such Indignities to the Other as shall Render their Condition Intolerable.
- [AZ] Spouse Abandoned Matrimonial Domicile for at least One Year; Habitual Intemperance or Ill Treatment of a Spouse is of such a Nature as to Render Living Together Insupportable; Habitual Abuse of Drugs or Alcohol.
- [LA] Spouse Abandoned Matrimonial Domicile for at least One Year and Constantly Refuses to Return; On Account of Habitual Intemperance or Excesses, Cruel Treatment, or Outrages of a Spouse, if of such a Nature as to Render Living Together Insupportable.
OUR STATEMENT OF FAITH re THE MARRIAGE COVENANT
- We believe a Covenant, when spoken by God, is to be obeyed fully and is everlasting. At Mount Sinai, He told Moses “…if you keep My Covenant, then you shall be My Treasured Possession…and you shall be to Me…a holy nation.” [Exodus 19:5-6] With Noah, He established this Covenant: “Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of the flood and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth…This is the sign of the Covenant I am making between me and you, a Covenant for all generations to come…” [Genesis 9:11-12]
- We believe when God commanded the man to “…cleave to his wife…become one flesh”, He commanded into existence the Marriage Covenant, a promise made between man & woman before the LORD God for everlasting obedience and yielding to the other. Malachi tells us “…the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth…of your Marriage Covenant.” [Malachi 2:14]
|TRADITIONAL MARRIAGES [2002-10. 2002-06 data is finalized. 2007-10 data is provisional]|
|Divorces after Years of Marriage|
|COVENANT MARRIAGES [2002-10. 2002-06 data is finalized. 2007-10 data is provisional]|
|Divorces after Years of Marriage|
[Data provided by Center for Health Statistics, Arkansas Department of Health.]
The data show that through the first three years, the divorce rate of a Covenant Marriage is far superior to that of a Traditional Marriage. Starting in the fourth through sixth years, the divorce rates are much closer together but slightly favor Covenant Marriages. Totaling the divorce rates from the seventh and eighth years, the Covenant Marriage’s survival rate lags behind. Because the data ends here, it is unclear if that trend will continue. Overall, the Divorce Rate through eight years of marriage favors Covenant Marriages [12.717%] over Traditional Marriages [15.456%], a 21.5% improvement.
My interpretation of the data: the counseling that separates a Covenant from a Traditional Marriage sustains the couple through the early years. Starting in the fourth year, the issues that plague a Traditional Marriage are as likely to haunt a Covenant Marriage suggesting that all marriages require refresher counseling about every four years.