As the new Speaker of the House was a relative unknown prior to his election as Speaker, many have discovered that his marriage is what is called a covenant marriage. This has drawn Hawaiian residents to wonder what is and whether Hawaii recognizes it.
What are covenant marriages?
A covenant marriage is a type of marriage that is only recognized in a small number of states in the United States. It makes the marriage more binding as it makes divorce much harder.
Prior to marriage, to qualify for a covenant marriage, you must undergo counseling, agree to limiting the grounds for divorce and must agree to mandatory marital counseling prior to even filing for divorce. The goal of covenant marriages is to strengthen the institution of marriage to reduce divorce rates and their accompanying negative consequences.
Why choose a covenant marriage?
The couples that choose a covenant marriage do so for personal reasons, like religious, moral or personal convictions. For example, for those that believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between the spouses and God, and that divorce is not an option, then a covenant marriage is a way to make that belief have the force of law.
It would make divorce very hard unless there were fidelity or some other serious breach of trust to give a for-cause divorce. Other times, couples may just want their commitment to each other to be demonstrated through their public statement of a covenant marriage.
Which states recognize covenant marriages?
Only three states actually recognize covenant marriages: Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona. Each enacted their covenant marriage laws in the late 1990s, but no other state has followed in their lead. And, even in those states, few couples choose a covenant marriage over the standard marriage, which allows for a no-fault divorce.
What about Hawaii?
Hawaii law does not have a covenant marriage option. Instead, if you want to marry, you only have the option for a traditional marriage license through the Hawaii State Department of Health. There is no pre-marriage counseling requirement, and no blood test requirement.
If you were previously married within the prior 30 days of your traditional marriage license application, you will need to provide a divorce decree or death certificate.
While a covenant marriage may not be available to Hawaii residents, you can still accomplish many of the same things through a premarital or post-marital agreement between the spouses.