Covenant marriage was back in the news recently, when Jill Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting marriedDerick Dillard in Bentonville, Arkansas. The couple is now expecting their first child. Jill’s sister, Jessa Duggar, recently married Ben Seewald. That ceremony was notable because of a celebrity appearance by actor Kirk Cameron and the couple’s decision to forego the traditional first kiss at the altar.
Ms. Duggar and Mr. Dillard entered into a covenant marriage. According to advocates, this arrangement signals the couple’s commitment to a lifelong marriage.
The roots of the modern covenant marriage movement go back to 1968, when then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed California’s no-fault divorce law. Within just a few years most other states followed suit. The divorce rate skyrocketed in the 1970s and 1980s, but began to level off thereafter. When the covenant marriage discussion began in the 1990s, the divorce rate was still about twice as high as it had been prior to 1970.
What is a Covenant Marriage?
At least partly in response to the perceived breakup of the family, a conservative Congress effectively outlawed same-sex marriage and overhauled the welfare system with the Defense of Marriage Act and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996. About the same time, Presidential candidate George W. Bush included some of these same issues in his platform. While the actual model varies by state, covenant marriage has some distinct features:
No-Fault Divorce: The parties essentially agree to waive their right to an uncontested divorce in the future.
Premarital Counseling: The new husband and wife agree to meet with an approved family counsellor prior to marriage.
Certificate: The marriage license may require an additional witness and may contain verbiage stating that the couple will divorce only as a last resort.
Currently, only Arkansas, Louisiana, and Arizona recognize covenant marriage. Fifteen other states debated the measure but did not enact it.
The Future of Covenant Marriage
Illinois has never considered covenant marriage, and probably never will. Despite a groundswell of support for the concept, covenant marriage never really took off. By the late 1990s, the divorce rate had started to decline, so the issue was no longer the political hot-button that it had been previously.
We live in an imperfect world, and many marriages do not last forever. If you need an experienced DuPage County family law attorney, contact Mulyk Laho Law, LLC.