Kentucky Bankruptcy Law

Counsel with Care

Covenant of Marriage

Legislation has been introduced in Kentucky to create a super-marriage or Covenant of Marriage. Here is a summary of the bill:

    Create new sections of KRS Chapter 402 to provide the option for couples to enter into a covenant marriage; provide that a couple may designate a covenant marriage when applying for a marriage license or after marriage; require authorized counseling before entering a covenant marriage; define “authorized counseling”; establish the procedure for declaring a covenant marriage; require marriage license and certificate to indicate if the marriage is a covenant marriage; provide limited grounds for dissolution, legal separation, or divorce from bed and board, including a requirement of authorized counseling before divorce in a covenant marriage; require the Human Resources Coordinating Commission of Kentucky to develop an informational pamphlet regarding covenant marriage; amend KRS 402.100, 402.230, 403.025, 403.044, 403.110, 403.140, 403.150, and 403.170 to conform.

First, let me explain that I made a decision in representing divorce cases to limit my client base by about 1/2. I believe in the sanctity of marriage and do not wish to facilitate divorce as a means of relieving so many of the normal difficulties of marriage. To that end, I will represent those responding to a divorce petition filed, assist in legal separations, and represent those seeking to begin a divorce only under certain circumstances. This is a very counter-intuitive, principle base stance in the area of family law (I call it family law rather than divorce law because there are still many areas of practice touching on the family other than divorce).

That being the context, I am not in favor of the Covenant of Marriage legislation proposed. I see it as superfluous. Those having the religious conviction that would draw them to a Covenant would already be making a covenant before God. Everyone else will opt for a regular marriage. I would suspect that some would pressure their partners into a covenant marriage: “If you really loved me you’d agree to the super-sized marriage.” This would start things off on an uneven foot. I can even imagine horrible discussions at dinner parties and bible studies: “Oh, did you hear that Marge and Bill only got a regular marriage.” “Marge, the poor dear – doesn’t she realize he is just waiting to upgrade in a few years.” Introductions would be awkward. “Pastor, I’d like to to meet my wife . . . oh, well, uhm, no – she’s not my covenant wife – just a regular one.”

Then there’s the jurisdictional issue. If you get a covenant marriage in Kentucky and then move to California, what law prevails. A divorce action is one where the court has jurisdiction of the marriage itself, so unless California wanted to honor a Covenant Marriage, then the plain old divorce would suffice.

Mainly, it is my believe that legislation should reach only so far into one’s life. Many spiritual beliefs and religious convictions should remain with the church and between an individual and God and not become law. I agree that people should be open with their prospective spouse, engage in pre-marital counseling, and take it seriously when they marry. I agree that counseling should be sought to resolve conflict leading to a divorce and that one should try other steps including legal separation for a year or more prior to taking that final step to divorce. I do not believe the state should be in the business of regulating those behaviors and choices.

I am sure proponents would say that the state is not regulating it absent the choice of the parties agreeing to the covenant. That is true to an extent – however, we are talking about human beings who develop and change over the decades of their lives. They are not businesses where we can entirely reduce things to contract law. No, it may be chosen to the best of their knowledge at the moment when the hormones are flowing and no one is truly sane. But, decades later, it is the state going too far in regulating what amount to religious convictions.

Here’s the bill: Covenant of Marriage.

February 16, 2007 - Posted by | Family Law, Life & Law, Politics

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