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Covenant Marriage in Texas: What Is a Covenant Marriage?

Sophia Merton
April 5, 2024

In Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana, couples are able to choose to get a covenant marriage rather than a standard marriage. Is there such thing as covenant marriage in Texas?

The short answer is: no. Though there have been attempts to enact covenant marriage in the Lone Star State, Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana remain the only U.S. states with covenant marriage laws on the books.

  • Covenant marriages differ from traditional marriages in that couples are required to undergo pre-marital counseling and can only seek divorce down the road based on particular grounds.

Let’s dive in and take a closer look at what exactly covenant marriage is and whether or not we can expect this type of marriage to be on the law books in Texas any time soon.

What Is a Covenant Marriage?

Covenant marriage is a legally distinct type of marriage available in three US states– Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana. In states where this type of marriage is available, covenant marriage requires couples to undergo premarital counseling and accept more limited grounds for divorce compared to a standard marriage.

covenant marriage in texas couple getting married

There are a number of key features to a covenant marriage, which are:

  • Couples must attend premarital counseling and sign a statement declaring the marriage is for life
  • The grounds for divorce are more limited, typically requiring proof of adultery, felony conviction, substance abuse, or physical/sexual abuse as opposed to allowing no-fault divorce.
  • Even if the grounds are met for divorce, there is a mandatory waiting period of one to two years.

While this might seem strange when you first encounter the idea of covenant marriage, people in favor of the practice argue that it helps promote lifelong commitment and reduce divorce rates overall.

On the other hand, critics of covenant marriage view it as overly restrictive. Essentially, they see it as making an already difficult situation even more painful for couples seeking to end their marriage.

In the states that offer covenant marriage, only a small fraction of couples have chosen this option over a standard marriage. The primary reason that couples choose to get a covenant marriage rather than a traditional marriage has to do with their religious beliefs.

Does Texas Have Covenant Marriage?

Texas does not currently have a covenant marriage law. Attempts have been made to introduce such a law, but it hasn’t been passed by the Texas legislature.

covenant marriage in texas couple getting married

For instance, William “Bill” Zedler introduced a bill in 2007 with the express purpose of creating covenant marriage in Texas. However, it didn’t pass and Texas remains with the majority of US states that doesn’t allow covenant marriage.

A Brief History of Covenant Marriage

The concept of covenant marriage has deep roots in biblical teachings. In particular, this form of marriage stems from the idea of marriage as a sacred, lifelong covenant between a couple and God.

covenant marriage in texas couple getting married

In our modern times, the covenant marriage movement emerged during the 20th century, aiming to strengthen marriage and reduce divorce rates by legally requiring premarital counseling and limiting the grounds for divorce.

How Many People Choose a Covenant Marriage?

In the states that offer covenant marriage, only a very small fraction of couples have chosen to go this route rather than pursue a traditional, standard marriage. For example, in Louisiana between 2000-2010, only around 1% of couples that decided to tie the knot chose a covenant marriage, while 99% opted for a standard marriage.

What’s the Procedure For Entering a Covenant Marriage?

The procedure for entering a covenant marriage can vary slightly depending on the state, as only a few states in the United States offer covenant marriage as an option.

covenant marriage in texas couple getting married walking on beach

In general, though, the process typically includes several key steps designed to underscore the commitment being made and to prepare the couple for a long and lasting marriage. Let’s look at some of the standard components of getting a covenant marriage in the states where such a union is allowed under law.

Pre-Marital Counseling

In order to get a covenant marriage, couples must undergo pre-marital counseling from a qualified counselor or religious authority.

The counseling is intended to ensure that both parties understand the nature and purpose of marriage, the importance of commitment, and how to manage conflict. As a part of this step in the process, the counselor must provide a signed affidavit stating that the counseling has occurred, covering the topics required by law.

Declaration of Intent

Another essential aspect of a covenant marriage is that couples must sign a declaration of intent or something known as a covenant agreement.

This declaration typically includes statements in which both people affirm their commitment to making the marriage lifelong. Additionally, they state their intention to seek counseling if problems do end up developing and their understanding that seeking a divorce can only be based on limited, specified grounds.

Applying for a Marriage License

When applying for a marriage license, the couple must present the signed affidavit from their pre-marital counseling session. Furthermore, they have to submit their declaration of intent to enter into a covenant marriage.

The Marriage Ceremony

In general, the marriage ceremony itself does not differ significantly from that of traditional marriages. However, the couple typically needs to declare their choice of a covenant marriage in their vows, where they acknowledge the special commitment they are making.

Looking for more information about marriage and divorce in Texas? Check out some of our guides:

How Does a Covenant Marriage Differ From a Traditional Marriage?

Covenant marriage differs from traditional marriage in three main ways: primarily in the aspects of entering the marriage, the grounds for divorce, and the processes involved in seeking a divorce or separation.

Entering the Marriage

A covenant marriage requires pre-marital counseling to ensure both parties understand the commitment they are making. Additionally, couples must also sign a declaration of intent that outlines their commitment to marriage as a lifelong union and agree to seek marital counseling if problems arise.

On the other hand, traditional marriage doesn’t require pre-marital counseling or a declaration of intent. Entering a traditional marriage is generally simpler and involves fewer legal stipulations.

Grounds for Divorce

There are limited grounds for divorce in a covenant marriage. Grounds might include adultery, conviction of a felony, abandonment, physical or sexual abuse, or long-term separation, among others specified by law.

In traditional marriages, the grounds for divorce are broader and can include irreconcilable differences or incompatibility, allowing for "no-fault" divorces where neither party is required to prove wrongdoing by the other.

Divorce Process

Dissolving a covenant marriage is different than dissolving a traditional marriage. The former typically involves a mandatory waiting period that is longer than that for traditional marriages. The couple may also be required to undergo counseling before a divorce is granted, with the intention of encouraging reconciliation and working through problems.

  • To get divorced when you and your spouse got married traditionally, the process can be quicker, with shorter waiting periods and no mandatory counseling requirements. "No-fault" divorces simplify the process, making it easier for couples to dissolve their marriage without the need to prove specific grounds.
  • Two other primary differences between these two types of marriage have to do with the philosophical and legal commitment the two parties are making to one another as well as the public and legal recognition.

In terms of the former, covenant marriage implies a deeper philosophical commitment to marriage as a lifelong union. It's designed for couples who want to explicitly express their intent to work through marital challenges and view divorce as a last resort.

When it comes to the public and legal recognition of the marriage, covenant marriage is only recognized in a small handful of states. Traditional marriage, on the other hand, is universally recognized and treated the same across all states, with consistent laws governing the entry into and dissolution of marriage.

What Are the Legal Requirements For a Covenant Marriage in Texas?

Texas does not currently have a covenant marriage law.

Attempts have been made to introduce such a law, but it has not been passed by the Texas legislature. The key features of a covenant marriage, as seen in the states that do offer it (Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana), are:

  • Couples must undergo premarital counseling and sign a statement declaring the marriage is for life
  • The grounds for divorce are more limited, typically requiring proof of adultery, felony conviction, substance abuse, or physical/sexual abuse.
  • There is a mandatory waiting period of 1-2 years before a divorce can be granted, even if the grounds are met.

Navigating Marriage and Divorce Law in Texas

Most people don’t have much interaction with the legal system except when it comes to marriage, divorce, and other family laws. Whether you’re getting ready to tie the knot or you’re considering dissolving your marriage, having access to the right information is key.

Are you looking for more resources to help you navigate family law in Texas? If so, make sure you check out our Texas Divorce Laws blog.

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is a researcher and writer that aims to help make the complexities of the legal system understandable to the layperson. Believing that people can be empowered by understanding their rights and responsibilities under the law, Sophia aims to offer accurate and well-researched information in straightforward and easy-to-digest legal articles.

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