What is a Covenant Marriage in Arkansas and Can I Get a Divorce if Necessary? Part II
To answer the question regarding a covenant marriage in Arkansas, “can I get a divorce if necessary?” the answer is simply yes. However, what you deem as necessary must be applicable to the laws of your state. In Part I of this blog article, we discussed that a spouse may petition the court for a divorce; however, he or she has the burden of proving that the other spouse has committed specific acts that violate the covenant marriage agreement. In this second part, we are discussing an event that must take place prior to the petition, the authorized counseling.
When a potential client enters the law office and he or she is seeking a divorce, one of the questions that must be answered is, “ Is your marriage a covenant marriage?” A vast majority of the potential clients do not know what a covenant marriage is or have never heard of it. Although Arkansas is one of the three states that allow a covenant marriage, it is widely unpopular. In an effort to encourage couples to join this type of commitment, Governor Mike Huckabee made top headlines in 2004, when announced that he and his wife intended to convert their current marriage nuptials into a covenant marriage on Valentine’s Day- at the then North Little Rock Arena. At that time, only about 600 unions were recorded as covenant marriages since the Act had been passed in 2001.
With the divorce rate so high in the United States and Arkansas being among the top five, why should a person even contract a covenant marriage? As stated in Part I, obtaining a covenant marriage in Arkansas is not a requirement. However, for some couples, the process to terminate this type of contract can be difficult if they desire to no longer remain married. An authorized counselor’s job is to detail to the couple the seriousness of a covenant marriage by explaining the commitments and obligations of a lifetime commitment. This counseling also includes the discussion of the couple’s obligation to seek further counseling if difficulty arises within the course of their marriage. However, the counselor that you choose can’t be just a friend or family member. This person has to be someone that is authorized by law.
“Authorized counseling,” means marital counseling provided by:
- A priest;
- A minister;
- A rabbi;
- A clerk of the Religious Society of Friends;
- Any clergy member of any religious sect or a designated representative;
- A marriage educator that is approved by the person who will perform the marriage ceremony; or
- A licensed professional counselor;
- A licensed associate counselor;
- A licensed marriage and family therapist;
- A licensed clinical psychologist; or
- A licensed associate marriage and family therapist.
One of the questions to really ask yourself is if you view divorce as an option in a marriage, then why seek a covenant marriage in Arkansas? If divorce is an option, then getting a divorce in a non-covenant marriage is not going to make your “status” appear any differently if in the end you ultimately choose divorce. In authorized counseling, you will have to spend a lot of time, money, and conversations about your feelings and your life. This is not bad, communication is great and it may aid you and your spouse in your decision making. However, going into any marriage already viewing divorce as an option may not end well. In a non-covenant marriage, a portion of the traditional wedding vows are “for better or worse” and “until death do us part,” remember?
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 when we first began on this subject, 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.