Alabama Considers the Covenant Marriage
In April, many news sources reported that a “covenant marriage” bill was making its way through the Alabama Legislature (Al.com, online home of The Huntsville Times). The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Phil Williams of Rainbow City, claims covenant marriage can help decrease Alabama’s high divorce rate, which is the fourth-highest in the country according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data.
What is Covenant Marriage?
Generally, in a covenant marriage, the marrying couple agrees to obtain pre-marital counseling and accept more limited grounds for divorce. The Alabama bill requires couples entering into a covenant marriage to provide an affidavit stating they have received premarital counseling from a religious leader or a marriage counselor. The counseling must include a discussion of the obligation to seek more counseling in times of marital difficulties, as well as a discussion of the exclusive grounds for terminating a covenant marriage.
According to the bill, the limited circumstances in which a spouse in a covenant marriage could request a divorce without first seeking counseling include:
- There is proof the other spouse committed adultery
- The other spouse physically, emotionally, or sexually abused the spouse seeking divorce or one of their children
- The other spouse committed a felony
- The other spouse abandoned the family home, has been gone for more than one year, and refuses to return
- The spouses have been living apart for at least two years
While covenant marriage would only be an option, not a requirement, for couples getting married in Alabama, some lawmakers and interested nonprofit groups feel covenant marriage is unnecessary, and even potentially dangerous in abuse situations. The executive director of the Alabama Coalition against Domestic Violence explained to the Times Daily in Florence, “We feel that [covenant marriage] legislation, no matter how well intended, is potentially a tool for an abuser. Our fear [is] that an abuser will encourage a victim to enter into a covenant marriage because it is harder to get out of it.”
Can a “super contract” improve the stability of marriages in Alabama, or will covenant marriage only make divorce unnecessarily hard when a marriage needs to end? We may find out if the Senate passes Williams’ bill.
Seek Experienced, Compassionate Representation to Help You through Divorce
With or without a covenant marriage, divorce is always difficult, but it can be easier with the support and guidance of an experienced family law attorney. In the Huntsville-Decatur area, please contact Lana Hawkins to learn more about divorce representation.