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Getting a divorce when you’re in a covenant marriage in Arkansas

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2023 | Divorce

There’s been a lot of talk about covenant marriage in the news recently. That’s because new Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson is in a covenant marriage. Speaker Johnson and his wife live in Louisiana, which is one of just three states (including Arkansas and Arizona) that currently recognize this kind of marriage.

Just as there are more requirements to enter a covenant marriage than a “traditional” one, there are also more requirements to end it. That’s by design, since they’re intended to last until death. However, those in a covenant marriage can divorce if circumstances allow it.

Grounds for judicial separation

Before a person in a covenant marriage in Arkansas can seek a divorce, they must first obtain a “judicial separation.” To do this, they must prove that their spouse did one or more of the following:

  • Committed a felony for which they’ve received a prison sentence
  • Committed physical or sexual abuse of them or one of their children
  • Engaged in “such cruel and barbarous treatment as to endanger the life of the other”
  • Committed adultery
  • Be “addicted to habitual drunkenness” for at least a year
  • “Offer such indignities…that shall render [their spouse’s] condition intolerable”

Further, the two must have been living separately for the past two years. 

Filing for divorce

Once a couple has lived apart for another two years following the granting of a judicial separation, a spouse can file for divorce if they have no minor children. If they do, the requirement is two-and-a-half years. An exception can be made if child abuse was a reason for the separation. Then the waiting period is one year.

The grounds for divorce from a covenant marriage are essentially the same as for a judicial separation. While it takes a good deal of time to complete the process of divorce when you have a covenant marriage, a person can leave the home or otherwise separate from their spouse at any time. Certainly, if there’s violence or abuse, it’s crucial to get out of the situation and seek an order of protection if necessary. 

Since it’s crucial to be able to show how long you and your spouse have been continuously living apart as well as to provide evidence of your grounds for judicial separation and divorce, it’s wise to have experienced legal guidance from the time – if not before – you separate from your spouse. This can help you protect your rights.