You Deserve Justice

Ending a covenant marriage in Arkansas

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | Divorce & Family Law |

Covenant marriage has gained some national and even international attention in recent months and sparked some curiosity among those who aren’t familiar with it. That’s because the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, who wasn’t previously one of the more well-known members of Congress, has been public about his own covenant marriage

While most couples who get married intend for the union to last “til death do us part,” those who go into a covenant marriage, typically for religious purposes, have to undertake specific steps that couples going into a “traditional” marriage don’t.

People often think that there’s no option to end a covenant marriage through divorce. That’s not the case. Although no divorce is easy, divorcing a spouse with whom you’re in a covenant marriage involves more steps and requirements than your average divorce.

Judicial separation

Under Arkansas law, before a spouse in a covenant marriage can obtain a divorce, they must first qualify for a “judicial separation.” They must be able to show that their spouse did one or more of the following:

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

The couple must also have lived apart for at least two years before the judicial separation can be granted. It’s important to know that if your spouse is a danger to you, your children or anyone in your home, you should get (and have a right to) an order of protection.

When can you file for divorce?

That requires yet another two years of separation after the judicial separation begins if the couple has no minor children. Otherwise, they have to wait two-and-a-half years. This requirement is reduced to a year if there’s child abuse. The grounds for divorce are basically the same as for judicial separation.

While officially and finally ending a covenant marriage takes considerable time, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start protecting your rights as soon as possible. If you’re living apart, you may need agreements on support, child custody and more. It’s wise to get experienced legal guidance before you begin your covenant divorce journey.