As well-seasoned divorce lawyers, we created a series of blogs for those of you thinking of divorce in Arkansas. For information about Leigh Law’s Family & Domestic Law services, click here. We also answer several of your most common questions on our FAQ page.
This Article is About Divorce of a Covenant Marriage in Arkansas
Earlier, we published an article on Grounds for Divorce in Arkansas. That article is relevant to this discussion of special circumstances of covenant marriage. We recommend that you should definitely read that one here.
Is My Marriage a Covenant Marriage?
Is your marriage a covenant marriage? I don’t know! You have to tell us. We can sometimes guess. If you’re very involved in your church and were married by a minister or took classes before you married, you may be in a covenant marriage.
Since covenant marriage has a special legal status under Arkansas law, we have to be certain and the best way to be sure is to obtain a copy of your marriage license. It is critical to know, because the divorce process is more complicated if you are in a covenant marriage.
Arkansas is one of the few states that allows covenant marriage. While not a technical term, we at Leigh Law call it a marriage on steroids! This is not meant to demean the value of marriage and the value that covenantly married parties derive from being married under the covenant marriage statute. It is a little humor in an otherwise quite depressing line of work. Divorce is hard whether you are married regularly or married covenantly and we need to smile whenever we can.
The Benefits And Consequences of Covenant Marriage
There is no legal or financial benefit to being married under the covenant statute. You are not “more” married in the eyes of the State of Arkansas or the general public if you signed the covenant agreement. Your benefit is derived emotionally and religiously from agreeing to additional marriage contract terms, namely terms that make it more difficult to get a divorce in the future.
Should You Enter Into Covenant Marriage
If you’re thinking of marrying, I strongly recommend that you do not marry under the covenant marriage statute. Of course this does not mean that you cannot attend counseling or get married in your church. It just means that if you do ultimately need a divorce, you won’t have to pay more money or jump through more hoops to accomplish it.
No one marries with the intention of divorcing, but no one knows what the future holds. Unexpected things can happen, like alcoholism, abuse, and other things that 100% justify a divorce. If you are in a covenant marriage, that particular Arkansas law can make a difficult situation even worse.
The Grounds For Covenant Marriage
To divorce a covenant marriage, you have to meet the same requirements as a regular marriage, including residency living separate and apart (read our blog on those topics here).
Additionally, you have to attend marriage counseling and have grounds, which are more limited than the grounds under the regular marriage statute. Grounds for covenant marriage divorce are:
- Felony or other infamous crime conviction
- Physical or sexual abuse of one of your children
- Living separate and apart from your spouse for at least 2 years.
- Living separate and apart from your spouse for at least 2 years and 6 months, if you have a child
- Living separate and apart from your spouse for at least 1 year, if you have a child and your spouse abused you or the child
The longer separation requirements make child support, custody and visitation difficult. If you have a covenant marriage and are waiting out the separation requirements, we can file for separation to reduce to court order parameters for visitation, support, custody, alimony, etc. You still need a lawyer in the separation period!
Is Divorce Still Possible In Covenant Marriage?
Don’t despair. If you are married under the covenant marriage statute and you want a divorce, we can do that for you! Your spouse cannot stop a divorce from a covenant marriage any more than your spouse could stop a divorce from a regular marriage; it will just take longer and be more stressful, but we will be with you every step of the way giving guidance and encouragement!
Call For A Free Case Evaluation
Case evaluations are completely free; our fees are flat and affordable. Call Leigh Law today at (501) 227-ROAR or Email Us to ensure that you are making wise decisions now which will last far beyond the entry of the divorce decree.