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What is a Covenant Marriage in Arkansas and Can I Get a Divorce If Necessary? Part I

Marriage has been thought of to be a lifelong commitment. Through years of change in cultures, societies, and laws, a marriage is simply what you make of it. You may be granted a divorced based on any reason that the state where your petition is filed honors for the divorce, such as “general indignities.” However, it may be a requirement by your state that you and your spouse live separate and apart for a specific length of time.

In the State of Arkansas, unless you meet specific grounds for divorce, spouses must live separate and apart for a minimum of eighteen months continuously, and without cohabitation. A Covenant Marriage is an option available to a couple when they seek a marriage license, but it is not required. In 2001, Arkansas passed the Covenant Marriage Act, to serve as an obligation to preserve the marriage even when difficulties between spouses arise. At that time, Arkansas had the second highest divorce rate. According to a report released by MSN, in 2016, Arkansas held the highest divorce rate in the United States showing that 23.4 per 1000 people were granted a divorce. Fifteen years, and not much has changed. Divorces in the State of Arkansas are still at a record high.

Two parties who agree with the understanding that their relationship is a lifetime commitment may enter into a covenant marriage. Prior to the parties’ marriage, they must undergo authorized counseling that highlights the nature, purpose, and the responsibilities of their marriage. The parties’ declaration of this legally binding contract must be completed and filed with their application for a marriage license. Currently in the United States, covenant marriages are recognized in only three states: Louisiana, Arizona and Arkansas.

A petitioner is able to file for a divorce, even in a covenant marriage. However, it is not so easy as stating “irreconcilable differences” in a petition. Only after authorized counseling has taken place, and a spouse decides to petition the Court for a divorce, he or she has the burden of proving that their spouse has committed any of the following:

  • Adultery;
  • A felony or any other infamous crime;
  • Sexual or physical abuse against the child or a child of one of the spouses;
  • The spouses have maintained living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a two year period; or
  • The spouses have lived separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of two years from the date of the judgment of judicial separation was signed.

(A) If minor children are involved, and the spouses have been living separate and apart for 2 years and 6 months continuously without reconciliation since a judgment of a judicial separation was signed.

(B) If abuse has occurred against a minor child of the marriage or a child of one of the spouses was the reason for a judicial separation, a divorce may be granted, if the spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of one year from the date a judgment of a judicial separation was signed.

If you decide to petition the court regarding a covenant marriage, it will be beneficial to seek legal counsel from an experienced Arkansas family law attorney who will be able to assist you in this process. As mentioned earlier, there is a specific criterion that must be met such as “authorized” counseling, and a qualified and provable reason for a desire to dissolve the marriage.

Tripcony, May & Associates provides services in covenant marriage contract, prenuptial agreements, divorce, child custody, visitation, grandparent rights, and other family law matters throughout the State of Arkansas. They currently have two locations in Little Rock and Hot Springs, Arkansas. Please contact one of their offices for a free consultation at (501) 296-9999, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. You may also view www.tripconylawfirm.com for additional information.

LaTrenia A. Ceasar, MSLS, Freelance Writer, has been an employee at Tripcony, May & Associates since 2015. About the Author:
LaTrenia A. Ceasar, MSLS, Freelance Writer, has been an employee at Tripcony, May & Associates since 2015.