Dissolving a Covenant Marriage in Arizona

Marriage has been described as a sacred bond between two individuals who promise to love, honor and cherish each other for better or for worse. Although modern-day marriages may be less enduring, some states — including Arizona — continue to recognize marital bonds that are characterized by a heightened level of commitment and dedication. These are known as covenant marriages, and there are specific and complex rules for dissolving them.

Couples intent on entering a covenant marriage must go through premarital counseling, which is meant to prepare them for the challenges of the marriage and to ensure that they are fully aware of the commitment they are making. This counseling helps couples understand the significance of a covenant marriage, emphasizing that it is intended to be a lifelong commitment.

An Arizona statute outlines specific grounds for divorce in a covenant marriage, which include the following:

  • Adultery by one spouse
  • A spouse’s conviction of a felony or imprisonment
  • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse of one spouse by the other
  • Abandonment of one spouse by the other for at least one year
  • Drug or alcohol abuse by either spouse
  • Living separately and apart continuously for at least two years

Notably absent from the list of grounds is a claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken, which is the usual ground of divorce in Arizona for traditional marriages. The spouses in a covenant marriage cannot use irreconcilable differences as a basis for divorce.

This stricter set of grounds reflects the state's commitment to preserving covenant marriages and discouraging their dissolution unless there are compelling reasons, usually relating to one party’s fault.

Dissolving a covenant marriage in Arizona also involves a mandatory legal separation period. Before filing for divorce, the spouses must first live separately for a specific duration. This separation provides couples with a last chance to reconcile and reaffirm their commitment to the marriage. If reconciliation is not possible, the court will proceed with the divorce proceedings.

Dissolving a covenant marriage also requires that the couples attend mediation sessions to attempt reconciliation. This additional step is designed to encourage couples to explore all alternatives to divorce.

If you find yourself in a covenant marriage and are considering divorce, it is wise to seek legal counsel from an experienced Arizona divorce lawyer who can guide you through the process.

Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. in Scottsdale provides knowledgeable counsel on Arizona divorces and other family law concerns. Call us at 602-789-3497 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.