Can spouses in a covenant marriage divorce?

Some Louisiana couples enter into a union through a covenant marriage. This form of marriage attempts to minimize divorce by placing certain requirements on a couple before they marry. These stipulations include the couple signing a declaration of intent that the couple has received premarital counseling and that they have been open about any aspects that could negatively affect their marriage. However, sometimes even covenant marriages fall apart. While state law allows for covenant marriage spouses to divorce, it takes more effort than spouses married in the traditional way.

The Louisiana Department of Health explains how parties to a covenant marriage may separate and divorce. To acquire a legal separation, a spouse under a covenant marriage would need to receive counseling first. Following that, the spouse seeking separation would have to prove certain circumstances exist. The separating spouse may have been the victim of physical or sexual abuse from the other spouse. The other spouse may have engaged in drug or alcohol abuse, or a commission of a crime. The spouses may also have lived separately for at least two years.

Many of these same factors come into play when a spouse seeks a divorce. Once a spouse in a covenant marriage has completed counseling, that spouse may seek a divorce only for a number of reasons, including living apart from another spouse for two years or if the other spouse is serving time for committing a crime. The divorcing spouse may also have been the victim of adultery or abandonment by the other spouse. If abandonment is an issue, it should have lasted for at least a year.

Even couples married in the usual way might enter into a covenant marriage sometime in the future. Louisiana law allows for already married couples to convert their marriage into a covenant marriage through a number of steps, including executing a Declaration of Intent to convert their marriage and signing a Recitation and Affidavit with Attestation that is similar to an Affidavit and Attestation form signed by covenant married spouses. If a couple converts their marriage in this way, state law will subject them to the divorce requirements of covenant marriage.