What is a Covenant Marriage? (FAQs)
Authored By: Pro Bono Project and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Covenant Marriage (Adapted from resource created by the Pro Bono Project)
A covenant marriage is similar to a “regular” marriage but includes additional legal steps. The covenant marriage sets out harder requirements to end a marriage and puts you into a tougher system of divorce laws. Covenant Marriages were developed by the Louisiana legislature to encourage couples to go through religious or professional counseling before filing for divorce. A covenant marriage allows the couple to show their intent to enter the marriage as a lifelong commitment.
How do I know if I am in a Covenant Marriage?
At the time you apply for a marriage license, you (or your spouse) would declare the intent to make a Covenant Marriage. You sign an extra statement for this. You would have attended “premarital counseling by a priest, minister, rabbi, clerk of the Religious Society of Friends, any clergyman of any religious sect, or a professional marriage counselor.” The counselor would have discussed the lifelong commitment you are making and emphasized the legal requirements specific to Covenant Marriages. You would have signed documents before a notary which include a Declaration of Intent, an attestation clause, and an affidavit. The documents prove you attended the required counseling, you agree to enter into a Covenant Marriage, and you will make all reasonable efforts to preserve your marriage. Once all this is completed and after your ceremony, the marriage license will state that you entered into a covenant marriage.
I got married before August 15, 1997. Do I have a Covenant Marriage?
No. Covenant Marriages were not available before this date. If you want to change your marriage into a Covenant Marriage, you would perform the necessary counseling discussed above and complete the Declaration of Intent documents. These documents are then filed with your original marriage license at the courthouse in your home parish. If you were married outside of Louisiana, you would get a copy of that marriage certificate, attach the Declaration of Intent, and file this in your home parish.
Can minors enter into a Covenant Marriage?
If one or both parties are an unemancipated minor, written consent and authorization by both minors’ parents and/or guardians would be necessary. More information on this is contained in Louisiana’s Children’s Code.
Are there additional requirements for Covenant Marriages?
Yes. All married couples have a duty to be faithful, support each other financially, and help the other when they are ill. Covenant Marriages add respecting and loving one another, living together in the same home unless there is cause for living apart, marriage management of the household is performed equally and decisions relating to the family’s best interest are made together. The requirement to “take all reasonable efforts to preserve [the] marriage” is the greatest added requirement. All efforts to preserve the marriage, meaning both religious and non-religious, must be reasonably attempted.
I am in a Covenant Marriage, can I get a divorce and if so how?
Ending in a Covenant Marriage is possible, but takes more time. Immediate divorces are not available. In a “regular” marriage, you may receive a divorce in a matter of days if there is evidence of adultery, if a spouse is convicted of a felony and sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor, or if there is domestic violence. You can also get a divorce if you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for six months. If there are children, it is 365 days. In a Covenant Marriage, the couple would have to first get a judgment of separation from bed and board based on the available grounds for divorce and then wait the required amount of time. The grounds for divorce in a Covenant Marriage are:
- Adultery was committed.
- A spouse is sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor for committing a felony.
- A spouse abandoned the matrimonial domicile for a period of one year and constantly refused to return.
- Spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for two years.
- Spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of one year from the date the judgment of separation was signed.
o If the couple has children, the time is one and a half years.
o If abuse of one of the spouse’s children is the grounds for the divorce, then the time is only one year.
Last Review and Update: Mar 03, 2020