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How can Louisianans in covenant marriages divorce?

"Covenant marriage" may be a concept that is unfamiliar to most people around the country. In fact, Louisiana is one of three states where it is legal. What is a covenant marriage, and what happens when a couple who has entered into one decides to end it?

Louisiana couples who want to have a covenant marriage are required to sign a Declaration of Intent. This document includes stipulations regarding their preparation for marriage, their intent to remain married forever and actions they will take before ending the marriage.

Couples state that they have received premarital counseling from a professional marriage counselor or clergyperson of any faith. They also declare that they have disclosed to their future spouse everything that could "adversely affect" that person's decision to marry them. After completing the premarital counseling, the couple and counselor sign an Affidavit and Attestation. This form declares that the counselor has discussed the "profound implications" of such a marriage, the lifelong commitment expected and the requirement to seek counseling for marital problems.

According to the State of Louisiana, a couple entering into a covenant marriage must "agree to make all reasonable efforts to preserve the marriage, including marital counseling" before getting a legal separation or divorce.

Covenant marriage in Louisiana is not just available to engaged couples. Married couples can also designate their union as a covenant marriage by going through counseling and signing the necessary forms.

By its very nature and intentions, getting out of a covenant marriage can be more complicated than a non-covenant marriage. In addition to the required counseling, a person may only seek a divorce if at least one of the following situations must apply:

-- The other spouse committed adultery.

-- The other spouse abandoned him or her for at least a year.

-- The other spouse was sentenced to "imprisonment at hard labor or death" for a felony.

-- The couple has lived apart for at least two years.

-- The couple has been granted a legal or judicial separation. There are specific requirements for the length of time lived apart depending on the situation.

-- Sexual or physical abuse of a spouse or one of their children.

Louisiana residents in a covenant marriage who are considering ending the union either by separation or divorce, should seek the advice of a family law attorney. He or she can advise them of the best way to proceed.

Source: Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals - State Registrar & Vital Records, "Covenant Marriage" Nov. 21, 2014

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