2001 Georgia HB 17 - Covenant Marriage


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2001 Georgia House Bill No. 17

VERSION: Introduced
January 8, 2001
Snelling

To amend Chapter 3 of Title 19 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated,
relating to marriage generally, so as to provide for covenant marriage; to
provide for a short title; to provide for definitions; to provide for
procedures; to provide for conditions and limitations; to provide for duties
and authority of the office of Attorney General; to provide effective dates;
to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.


TEXT:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA:

SECTION 1.

Chapter 3 of Title 19 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating
to marriage generally, is amended by adding a new article at the end thereof,
to be designated Article 4, to read as follows:

"ARTICLE 4

19-3-80.

This article shall be known and may be cited as the 'Covenant Marriage
Act.'

19-3-81.

As used in this article, the term .authorized counseling' means marital
counseling provided by a priest, minister, rabbi, clerk of the Society of
Friends, any clergy member of any religious sect, a marriage and family
therapist licensed under Chapter 10A of Title 43, a clinical social worker or
licensed professional counselor, or a psychologist licensed under Chapter 39
of Title 43.

19-3-82.

(a) A covenant marriage is a marriage entered into by one male and one
female who understand and agree that the marriage between them is a lifelong
relationship. Parties to a covenant marriage have received authorized
counseling emphasizing the nature and purposes of marriage and the
responsibilities thereto. Only when there has been a complete and total breach
of the marital covenant commitment may the nonbreaching party seek a
declaration that the marriage is no longer legally recognized.

(b) A man and woman may contract a covenant marriage by declaring their
intent to do so on their application for a marriage license, as otherwise
required under Article 2 of this chapter, and executing a declaration of
intent to contract a covenant marriage as provided in Code Section 19-3-83.
The application for a marriage license and the declaration of intent shall be
filed with the official who issues the marriage license.

19-3-83.

(a) A declaration of intent to contract a covenant marriage shall contain
all of the following:

(1) A recitation by the parties to the following effect:

.A COVENANT MARRIAGE

We do solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a
woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for so long as they both
may live. We have chosen each other carefully and disclosed to one another
everything which could adversely affect the decision to enter into this
marriage. We have received authorized counseling on the nature, purposes, and
responsibilities of marriage. We have read the Covenant Marriage Act, and we
understand that a covenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital
difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve
our marriage, including marital counseling. With full knowledge of what this
commitment means, we do hereby declare that our marriage will be bound by
Georgia law on covenant marriages and we promise to love, honor, and care for
one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.';

(2)(A) An affidavit by the parties that they have received authorized
counseling which shall include a discussion of the seriousness of covenant
marriage, communication of the fact that a covenant marriage is a commitment
for life, a discussion of the obligation to seek marital counseling in times
of marital difficulties, and a discussion of the exclusive grounds for legally
terminating a covenant marriage by divorce.

(B) A notarized attestation, signed by the counselor and attached to or
included in the parties' affidavit, confirming that the parties received
authorized counseling as to the nature and purpose of the marriage and the
grounds for termination thereof and an acknowledgment that the counselor
provided to the parties the informational pamphlet developed and promulgated
by the office of the Attorney General under this article, which pamphlet
provides a full explanation of the terms and conditions of a covenant
marriage; and

(3)(A) The signature of both parties witnessed by a notary.

(B) If one or both of the parties are minors, the written consent or
authorization of those persons required under this chapter to consent to or
authorize the marriage of minors.

(b) The declaration shall contain two separate documents, the recitation
and the affidavit, the latter of which shall include the attestation either
included therein or attached thereto. The recitation shall be prepared in
duplicate originals, one of which shall be retained by the parties and the
other, together with the affidavit and attestation, shall be filed as provided
in subsection (b) of Code Section 19-3-82.

19-3-84.

A covenant marriage shall be governed by all of the provisions of this
title, except as otherwise specifically provided in this article.

19-3-85.

(a) On or after January 1, 2002, married couples with a Georgia marriage
license may execute a declaration of intent to designate their marriage as a
covenant marriage to be governed by this article.

(b) This declaration of intent in the form and containing the contents
required by subsection (c) of this Code section must be presented to the
officer who issued the couple's marriage license and with whom the couple's
marriage certificate is filed. The officer shall make a notation on the
marriage certificate of the declaration of intent of a covenant marriage and
attach a copy of the declaration to the certificate.

(c)(1) A declaration of intent to designate a marriage as a covenant
marriage shall contain all of the following:

(A) A recitation by the parties to the following effect:

.A COVENANT MARRIAGE

We do solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a
woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for so long as they both
may live. We understand the nature, purpose, and responsibilities of marriage.
We have read the Covenant Marriage Act, and we understand that a covenant
marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit
ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including
marital counseling. With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we
do hereby declare that our marriage will be bound by Georgia law on covenant
marriage, and we renew our promise to love, honor, and care for one another as
husband and wife for the rest of our lives.'; and

(B)(i) An affidavit by the parties that they have discussed their intent
to designate their marriage as a covenant marriage with an authorized
counselor, which included a discussion of the obligation to seek marital
counseling in times of marital difficulties and the exclusive grounds for
legally terminating a covenant marriage by divorce.

(ii) A notarized attestation, signed by the counselor and attached to the
parties' affidavit, acknowledging that the counselor provided to the parties
the information pamphlet developed and promulgated by the office of the
Attorney General under this article, which pamphlet provides a full
explanation of the terms and conditions of a covenant marriage.

(iii) The signature of both parties witnessed by a notary.

(2) The declaration shall contain two separate documents, the recitation
and the affidavit, the latter of which shall include the attestation either
included therein or attached thereto. The recitation shall be prepared in
duplicate originals, one of which shall be retained by the parties and the
other, together with the affidavit and attestation, shall be filed as provided
in subsection (b) of this Code section.

19-3-86.

(a) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary and subsequent to the
parties obtaining authorized counseling, a spouse to a covenant marriage may
obtain a judgment of divorce only upon proof of any of the following:

(1) The other spouse has committed adultery;

(2) The other spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to
death or imprisonment;

(3) The other spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for a period
of one year and constantly refuses to return;

(4) The other spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking
the divorce or a child of one of the spouses; or

(5) The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without
reconciliation for a period of one year.

(b) No spouse shall be required to obtain or participate in counseling as
a condition of divorce pursuant to the grounds set forth in paragraphs (2) and
(4) of subsection (a) of this Code section.

19-3-87.

In any case in which the parties are ineligible for a decree of divorce
due to their failure to satisfy the requirements of Code Section 19-3-86, an
action shall nonetheless lie for spousal support, child support, child
custody, apportionment of debts, and possession of separate and marital
property.

19-3-88.

The office of Attorney General shall, prior to January 1, 2002, promulgate
an informational pamphlet, entitled .Covenant Marriage Act,' which shall
outline in sufficient detail the consequences of entering into a covenant
marriage. The informational pamphlet shall be made available to any counselor
who provides authorized counseling as provided for by this article."

SECTION 2.

The provisions of this Act which require the Attorney General to prepare
and make available an informational pamphlet relating to covenant marriage
shall become effective upon approval of this Act by the Governor or upon its
becoming law without such approval. The remaining provisions of this Act shall
become effective January 1, 2002.

SECTION 3.

All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are repealed.

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