What Is a Covenant Marriage?

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A marriage contract that makes divorce difficult is a way for some couples to protect their partnerships. However, some experts believe that this type of union has both advantages and disadvantages.

Many states in America, depending on state-specific laws, allow “no-fault” divorces, in which either partner can end their marriage for any reason. But with a covenant marriage, there are stricter guidelines for ending a marriage. Revelations concerning Mike Johnson, the new speaker of the House, and his own covenant marriage have brought the unconventional commitment arrangement into the spotlight.

Covenant marriages are legally binding contracts or agreements between two people who have the intent to live together for the rest of their lives. Unlike traditional marriages, covenant marriages come with additional requirements, and ending one through divorce is more challenging. Currently, three states allow these types of marriages: Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Traditional marriage allows a couple to enter the union by filling out a marriage license (among other state requirements), but with a covenant marriage, which is often rooted in religious or moral convictions, the couple must complete premarital counseling with a clergyman or therapist ahead of time. State laws vary, but often one spouse must prove adultery (with photos, videos or witness testimony), physical or sexual abuse, abandonment for more than a year, or imprisonment in order to file for divorce.

“The reasoning behind it is that if you are going to stand in a church full of people and say you are going to stay married forever, why not sign this thing that makes it harder for you to get out of your obligation?” said Christopher Suba, a lawyer who has a private practice in family law in Louisiana and Texas. “With this, you can’t just decide you don’t want to be married anymore. It’s like you signed this agreement, and you are going to have to try a little harder than that.”

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