Birmingham Divorces Would Be Tougher If Covenant Marriage Bill Passes

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Jun 07, 2012 | 0 Comments

Birmingham divorces are tough as it is.

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But a so-called covenant marriage bill that is being contemplated by the Alabama Legislature would make it even tougher.

Birmingham divorce lawyers understand that the measure is in response to skyrocketing divorce rates all over the country. In fact, Alabama ranks fourth in the country for the highest divorce rate, with nearly 13 divorces for every 1,000 marriages, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Partially, this is attributable to the fact that Alabama recognizes common-law marriages, which allows couples who "hold themselves out" as married to actually be legally bound in every way that a married couple would be – without the actual certificate. (This wouldn't apply to homosexual couples, however, under the 2006 state constitutional amendment ban on same-sex marriage.) 

What the covenant marriage bill would do is allow couples to willingly enter into what is known as a "covenant marriage." Those who have opted for this form of marriage would not be able to simply divorce without cause.

It would limit the cases in which a divorce could be obtained to the following situations:

  1. One of the spouses has committed adultery;
  2. One half of the couple abandons the shared home and refuses to return for at least a year;
  3. One half of the couple is abusive, either emotionally, sexually or physically to either the other spouse or the couple's children;
  4. The couple has been living separately for at least two full years.

Other states, such as Indiana and Louisiana, have jumped on this bandwagon, and it's one that is gaining steam in conservative circles.

Of course, there may be nothing at all wrong with providing newlyweds more options. However, critics of the measure say that despite its provision on abuse, actual victims of abuse would have a more difficult time separating from their aggressor. In fact, the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence originally came out in harsh opposition to the bill, but has since eased its stance since a provision was added that indicated the abused spouse would not have to attend counseling or live in the same household during the divorce proceedings.

Still, the issue would be proof. What would be required to prove emotional abuse, for example? And if you suffer physical abuse, would the divorce court require an actual police report to prove it? That could complicate matters because individuals may not want to involve law enforcement, but may simply want to leave the relationship as quickly as possible.

Additionally, because the covenant marriages are designed to create barriers to extrication, including extension of the amount of time it takes, the costs involved with divorce would inevitably increase.

The bottom line is that very few people enter a marriage with the belief that it's going to end. Most people are in it for the long haul.

However, when relationships sour, forcing people to stay together or dragging the process on is usually healthy for no one.

Some couples, particularly in the midst of this recession, may end up ultimately decide it isn't worth the hassle and stay together. But if they're truly unhappy, it's going to end eventually.

If you are contemplating a divorce in Birmingham, contact Birmingham Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

Additional Resources:

Alabama's proposed covenant marriage bill would make divorce more difficult, Associated Press staff report

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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