Arkansas Covenant Marriage Act of 2001: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The GoodFrom a strictly legal point of view, the covenant marriage is more like what marriage should be than a traditional marriage. Marriage should be for life. Couples considering marriage should disclose everything about themselves that could adversely affect the marital relationship before getting married. Couples considering marriage should attend counseling before getting married; those who are married and facing difficulties should seek counseling before seeking divorce. These are required by the Covenant Marriage Act. See. A.C.A. SS 9-11-804, 9-11-808 (repl. 2009).
The BadThe Covenant Marriage Act still doesn't go far enough. Simply attending a counseling session and signing a piece of paper does not convey the seriousness of marriage, and due to the difficulties of getting a divorce in a covenant marriage, one should not enter into a covenant marriage lightly. Several sessions of marital counseling should be required to obtain a covenant marriage.
The act contains a few procedural mishaps as well. For example, since not many states recognize the covenant marriage a person can simply move to another state and obtain a divorce under that state's law. This "loophole" defeats the purpose of the covenant marriage. Furthermore, the outcome of a case when the defendant defaults is questionable. Does the plaintiff win even if they have not attended counseling? These questions could lead to several problems procedurally, which cost clients more money in attorney fees.
The UglyDivorce is always ugly. The Covenant Marriage Act creates the potential environment for an even uglier divorce. In a traditional marriage, divorce is usually obtained on the grounds that one person treated the other with such indignities as to make their married life intolerable. This is the case even when adultery is the real cause. In a covenant marriage divorce, one party may actually have to prove adultery to get a divorce.
The act also provides that before a party can obtain a judgment of divorce or judicial separation the parties must go to counseling. What happens if one party refuses counseling? Can one party obtain a court order requiring the other to go to counseling? How good is that for the marriage?
ConclusionCouples who enter into a covenant marriage with their eyes wide open should be commended, but one must not enter into a covenant marriage lightly (as if one should enter into any marriage lightly). To do so could cause sever problems if a divorce is the only solution.