2002 Missouri HB 1878 - Covenant Marriage


Part of the Divorce Reform Page, sponsored by Americans for Divorce Reform
Legislation | Statistics | Articles/Opinion | Quotations | Polls | Other family-related articles

2002 Missouri House Bill No. 1878

INTRODUCED BY REPRESENTATIVES ROARK, CROWELL, RECTOR, CUNNINGHAM, BARTLE,
FROELKER, KELLY (36), JETTON, BARTELSMEYER, SHOEMAKER (8), MOORE, PHILLIPS,
BEARDEN, HOLAND, HUNTER, MYERS, REINHART, BEHNEN, CIERPIOT, ENZ, KELLEY (47),
BERKSTRESSER, DEMPSEY, QUINN, WRIGHT, KELLY (144) AND CRAWFORD
(Co-sponsors).
TED WEDEL, Chief Clerk
4184L.03I
AN ACT

VERSION: Introduced
February 12, 2002
Roark

To repeal sections 451.040, 451.080, 451.110, 452.305, 452.310, and
452.320, RSMo, and to enact in lieu thereof thirteen new sections relating to
covenant marriage.


TEXT:
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the state of Missouri, as
follows:

Section A. Section 451.040, 451.080, 451.110, 452.305, 452.310 and
452.320, RSMo, are repealed and thirteen new sections enacted in lieu
thereof, to be known as sections 451.040, 451.080, 451.110, 451.500, 451.503,
451.506, 451.509, 451.512, 451.515, 451.518, 452.305, 452.310 and 452.320, to
read as follows:

451.040. 1. Previous to any marriage in this state, a license for that
purpose shall be obtained from the officer authorized to issue the same, and
no marriage contracted shall be recognized as valid unless the license has
been previously obtained, and unless the marriage is solemnized by a person
authorized by law to solemnize marriages.

2. Before applicants for a marriage license shall receive a license, and
before the recorder of deeds shall be authorized to issue a license, the
parties to the marriage shall present an application for the license, duly
executed and signed in the presence of the recorder of deeds or their deputy.
In the case of a covenant marriage, the parties shall indicate their
intent to enter into a covenant marriage on the application. Each
application for a license shall contain the Social Security number of the
applicant, provided that the applicant in fact has a Social Security number,
or the applicant shall sign a statement provided by the recorder that the
applicant does not have a Social Security number. The Social Security number
contained in an application for a marriage license shall be exempt from
examination and copying pursuant to section 610.024, RSMo. Upon the
expiration of three days after the receipt of the application the recorder of
deeds shall issue the license, unless one of the parties withdraws the
application. The license shall, if applicable, designate that the parties
entered into a covenant marriage. The license shall be void after thirty
days from the date of issuance.

3. Provided, however, that such license may be issued on order of a
circuit or associate circuit judge of the county in which the license is
applied for, without waiting three days, such license being issued only for
good cause shown and by reason of such unusual conditions as to make such
marriage advisable.

4. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be deemed
guilty of a misdemeanor.

5. Common-law marriages shall be null and void.

6. Provided, however, that no marriage shall be deemed or adjudged
invalid, nor shall the validity be in any way affected for want of authority
in any person so solemnizing the marriage pursuant to section 451.100, if
consummated with the full belief on the part of the persons, so married, or
either of them, that they were lawfully joined in marriage.

451.080. 1. The recorders of the several counties of this state, and the
recorder of the city of St. Louis, shall, when applied to by any person
legally entitled to a marriage license, issue the same which may be in the
following form:

State of Missouri )

) ss.

)


County of ............................. )

This license authorizes any judge, associate circuit judge, licensed or
ordained preacher of the gospel, or other person authorized under the laws of
this state, to solemnize marriage between A B of ....., county of ...... and
state of ......, who is ...... the age of eighteen years, and C D of ......,
in the county of ....., state of ......, who is ...... the age of eighteen
years.

2. If the man is under eighteen or the woman under eighteen, add the
following:

The custodial parent or guardian, as the case may be, of the said A B or C
D (A B or C D, as the case may require), has given his or her assent to the
said marriage.

Witness my hand as recorder, with the seal of office hereto affixed, at my
office, in ......, the ...... day of ......, 20.., recorder.

3. On which such license the person solemnizing the marriage shall, within
fifteen days after the issuing thereof, make as near as may be the following
return, and return such license to the officer issuing the same:

State of Missouri )

) ss.

)


County of .............................. )

This is to certify that the undersigned ...... did at ......, in said
county, on the ...... day of ...... A.D. 20.., unite in marriage the
above-named persons.

4. In the case of a covenant marriage, the person solemnizing the
marriage shall, within fifteen days after the issuing thereof, make as near
as may be the following return, and return such license to the officer
issuing the same:

State of Missouri )

) ss.

)


County of ............................ )

This is to certify that the undersigned ...... did at ......, in said
county, on the ...... day of ...... A.D. 20.., unite in covenant marriage the
above-named persons.

451.110. Every person solemnizing marriages under this chapter shall issue
and deliver to the parties to such marriage a certificate thereof, which
shall be furnished in blank by the officer who issues such license, setting
forth the names and residence of the parties and the date of such marriage,
and the county from which the license was issued and the date of same ,
and, if applicable, a designation that the parties entered into a covenant
marriage ; and such certificates shall be prima facie evidence of the
facts therein stated in all courts of this state.

451.500. 1. 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
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.

2. A man and woman may contract a covenant marriage by declaring their
intent to do so on their application for a marriage license, as provided in
section 451.040, and executing a declaration of intent to contract a covenant
marriage, as provided in section 451.503. The application for a marriage
license and the declaration of intent shall be filed with the official who
issues the marriage license.

451.503. 1. A declaration of intent to contract a covenant marriage
shall contain 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 premarital counseling on the nature, purposes and
responsibilities of marriage. We have read the Covenant of 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 Missouri 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 premarital
counseling from a priest, minister, rabbi, or any clergy of any religious
sect, or a marriage counselor. Such counseling 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
dissolution or by dissolution after a judgment of separation; and

(b) A notarized attestation, signed by the counselor and attached to
or included in the parties' affidavit, confirming that the parties were
counseled 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. Such pamphlet shall be entitled the "Covenant of
Marriage Act" and shall provide a full explanation of the terms and
conditions of a covenant marriage; and

(3) The signature of both parties witnessed by a notary. If one or
both of the parties are minors, the written consent or authorization of the
persons required to consent to or authorize the marriage of minors pursuant
to section 451.090.

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 section 451.500.

451.506. 1. Beginning August 28, 2002, married couples may execute a
declaration of intent to designate their marriage as a covenant marriage.

2. The declaration of intent shall be presented to the officer who
issued the couple's marriage certificate and with whom the couple's marriage
certificate is filed. If the couple was married outside the state of
Missouri, a copy of the foreign marriage certificate, with the declaration of
intent attached thereto, shall be filed with the officer who issues marriage
licenses in the county in which the couple is domiciled. 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. On
or before the fifteenth day of each calendar month, the officer shall forward
to the state registrar of vital records each declaration of intent of a
covenant marriage filed with the officer during the preceding calendar month
pursuant to this section.

3. (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 of 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 Missouri 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.";

(b) a. An affidavit by the parties that they have discussed their
intent to designate their marriage as a covenant marriage with a priest,
minister, rabbi, or any clergy of any religious sect, or a marriage
counselor. Such counseling shall include 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 dissolution or by
dissolution after a judgment of separation; and

b. A notarized attestation, signed by the counselor and attached to
the parties' affidavit, acknowledging that the counselor provided to the
parties the Covenant of Marriage Act pamphlet developed and promulgated by
the office of the attorney general which provides an explanation of the terms
and conditions of a covenant marriage; and

(c) 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 2 of this section.

451.509. 1. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary and
subsequent to the parties obtaining counseling, a spouse to a covenant
marriage may obtain a judgment of dissolution of marriage only upon proof of
any of the following:

(1) The other spouse has committed adultery;

(2) The other spouse has been convicted of a felony;

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

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

(5) The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously
without reconciliation for a period of two years;

(6) The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously
without reconciliation for a period of two years from the date the judgment
of separation was signed. If there is a minor child or children of the
marriage, the spouses have been living separate and apart continuously
without reconciliation for a period of two years and six months from the date
the judgment of separation was signed; however, if abuse of a child of the
marriage or a child of one of the spouses is the basis for which the judgment
of separation was obtained, then a judgment of dissolution may be obtained if
the spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without
reconciliation for a period of one year from the date the judgment of
separation was signed.

2. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary and subsequent to the
parties obtaining counseling, a spouse to a covenant marriage may obtain a
judgment of separation only upon proof of any of the following:

(1) The other spouse has committed adultery;

(2) The other spouse has been convicted of a felony;

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

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

(5) The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously
without reconciliation for a period of two years;

(6) On account of habitual intemperance of the other spouse, or
excesses, cruel treatment, or outrages of the other spouse, if such habitual
intemperance, or such ill-treatment is of such a nature as to render their
living together insupportable.

451.512. 1. Unless judicially separated, spouses in a covenant
marriage may not sue each other except for causes of action pertaining to
contracts, restitution of separate property, separation, dissolution or
declaration of nullity of the covenant marriage, and for causes of action
pertaining to spousal support or the support or custody of a child while the
spouses are living separate and apart but not judicially separated.

2. (1) Any court which is competent to preside over dissolution of
marriage proceedings shall have jurisdiction of an action for separation in a
covenant marriage, if:

(a) One or both of the spouses are domiciled in this state and the
ground therefor was committed or occurred in this state or while the
matrimonial domicile was in this state;

(b) The ground therefor occurred elsewhere while either or both of the
spouses were domiciled elsewhere, provided the person obtaining the
separation was domiciled in this state prior to the time the cause of action
accrued and is domiciled in this state at the time the action is filed.

(2) An action for separation in a covenant marriage shall be brought
in a county where either party is domiciled, or in the county of their last
matrimonial domicile.

(3) The venue provided herein may not be waived, and a judgment of
separation rendered by a court of improper venue is an absolute nullity.

3. Judgments on the pleadings and summary judgments shall not be
granted in any action for separation in a covenant marriage.

4. In a proceeding for separation in a covenant marriage or
thereafter, a court may award a spouse all incidental relief afforded in a
proceeding for dissolution, including but not limited to spousal support,
claims for contributions to education, child custody, visitation rights,
child support, injunctive relief and possession and use of a family residence
or community movables or immovables.

451.515. 1. Separation in a covenant marriage shall not dissolve the
bond of matrimony, but it ends their conjugal cohabitation and common
concerns which existed between them. Spouses who are judicially separated in
a covenant marriage shall retain that status until either reconciliation or
dissolution.

2. The judgment of separation carries with it the separation of goods
and effects and is retroactive to the date on which the original petition was
filed in the action in which the judgment is rendered, but such retroactive
effect shall be without prejudice to:

(1) The liability for attorney fees and costs incurred by the spouses
in the action in which the judgment is rendered; or

(2) Rights validly acquired in the interim between commencement of the
action and recordation of the judgment.

3. Upon reconciliation of the spouses, the relationship between the
spouses shall be reestablished as of the date of filing of the original
petition in the action in which the judgment was rendered, unless prior to
the reconciliation the spouses execute a matrimonial agreement that the
relationship shall not be reestablished upon reconciliation. Such matrimonial
agreement shall not require court approval.

451.518. The office of attorney general shall, prior to August 28,
2002, promulgate an information 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 at
every county recorder of deeds office. The county recorder of deeds shall
make every couple requesting an application for a marriage license aware of
the availability of covenant marriage in this state.

452.305. 1. Except in the case of a covenant marriage, the court
shall enter a judgment of dissolution of marriage if:

(1) The court finds that one of the parties has been a resident of this
state, or is a member of the armed services who has been stationed in this
state, for ninety days immediately preceding the commencement of the
proceeding and that thirty days have elapsed since the filing of the
petition; and

(2) The court finds that there remains no reasonable likelihood that the
marriage can be preserved and that therefore the marriage is irretrievably
broken; and

(3) To the extent it has jurisdiction, the court has considered and made
provision for child custody, the support of each child, the maintenance of
either spouse and the disposition of property.

2. Except in the case of a covenant marriage, the court shall
enter a judgment of legal separation if:

(1) The court finds that one of the parties has been a resident of this
state, or is a member of the armed services who has been stationed in this
state, for ninety days immediately preceding the commencement of the
proceeding and that thirty days have elapsed since the filing of the
petition; and

(2) The court finds that there remains a reasonable likelihood that the
marriage can be preserved and that therefore the marriage is not
irretrievably broken; and

(3) To the extent it has jurisdiction, the court has considered and made
provision for the custody and the support of each child, the maintenance of
either spouse and the disposition of property.

3. Any judgment of dissolution of marriage or legal separation shall
include the Social Security numbers of the parties.

452.310. 1. In any proceeding commenced pursuant to this chapter, the
petition, a motion to modify, a motion for a family access order and a motion
for contempt shall be verified. Except in the case of a covenant
marriage, the petition in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage shall
allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that therefore there
remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.
Except in the case of a covenant marriage, the petition in a proceeding
for legal separation shall allege that the marriage is not irretrievably
broken and that therefore there remains a reasonable likelihood that the
marriage can be preserved.

2. Except in the case of a covenant marriage, the petition in a
proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation shall set forth:

(1) The residence of each party, including the county, and the length of
residence of each party in this state and in the county of residence;

(2) The date of the marriage and the place at which it is registered;

(3) The date on which the parties separated;

(4) The name, date of birth and address of each child, and the parent with
whom each child has primarily resided for the sixty days immediately
preceding the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage or legal
separation;

(5) Whether the wife is pregnant;

(6) The Social Security number of the petitioner, respondent and each
child;

(7) Any arrangements as to the custody and support of the children and the
maintenance of each party; and

(8) The relief sought.

3. Upon the filing of the petition in a proceeding for dissolution of
marriage or legal separation pursuant to this section , each child
shall immediately be subject to the jurisdiction of the court in which the
proceeding is commenced, unless a proceeding involving allegations of abuse
or neglect of the child is pending in juvenile court. Until permitted by
order of the court, neither parent shall remove any child from the
jurisdiction of the court or from any parent with whom the child has
primarily resided for the sixty days immediately preceding the filing of a
petition for dissolution of marriage or legal separation.

4. The mere fact that one parent has actual possession of the child at the
time of filing shall not create a preference in favor of such parent in any
judicial determination regarding custody of the child.

5. The respondent shall be served in the manner provided by the rules of
the supreme court and applicable court rules and, to avoid an interlocutory
judgment of default, shall file a verified answer within thirty days of the
date of service which shall not only admit or deny the allegations of the
petition, but shall also set forth:

(1) The Social Security number of the petitioner, respondent and each
child;

(2) Any arrangements as to the custody and support of the child and the
maintenance of each party; and

(3) The relief sought.

6. Previously existing defenses to divorce and legal separation, including
but not limited to condonation, connivance, collusion, recrimination,
insanity, and lapse of time, are abolished.

7. The petitioner and respondent
shall submit a proposed parenting plan, either individually or jointly,
within thirty days after service of process or the filing of the entry of
appearance, whichever event first occurs of a motion to modify or a petition
involving custody or visitation issues. The proposed parenting plan shall set
forth the arrangements that the party believes to be in the best interest of
the minor children and shall include but not be limited to:

(1) A specific written schedule detailing the custody, visitation and
residential time for each child with each party including:

(a) Major holidays stating which holidays a party has each year;

(b) School holidays for school-age children;

(c) The child's birthday, Mother's Day and Father's Day;

(d) Weekday and weekend schedules and for school-age children how the
winter, spring, summer and other vacations from school will be spent;

(e) The times and places for transfer of the child between the parties in
connection with the residential schedule;

(f) A plan for sharing transportation duties associated with the
residential schedule;

(g) Appropriate times for telephone access;

(h) Suggested procedures for notifying the other party when a party
requests a temporary variation from the residential schedule;

(i) Any suggested restrictions or limitations on access to a party and the
reasons such restrictions are requested;

(2) A specific written plan regarding legal custody which details how the
decision-making rights and responsibilities will be shared between the
parties including the following:

(a) Educational decisions and methods of communicating information from
the school to both parties;

(b) Medical, dental and health care decisions including how health care
providers will be selected and a method of communicating medical conditions
of the child and how emergency care will be handled;

(c) Extracurricular activities, including a method for determining which
activities the child will participate in when those activities involve time
during which each party is the custodian;

(d) Child care providers, including how such providers will be selected;

(e) Communication procedures including access to telephone numbers as
appropriate;

(f) A dispute resolution procedure for those matters on which the parties
disagree or in interpreting the parenting plan;

(g) If a party suggests no shared decision-making, a statement of the
reasons for such a request;

(3) How the expenses of the child, including child care, educational and
extraordinary expenses as defined in the child support guidelines established
by the supreme court, will be paid including:

(a) The suggested amount of child support to be paid by each party;

(b) The party who will maintain or provide health insurance for the child
and how the medical, dental, vision, psychological and other health care
expenses of the child not paid by insurance will be paid by the parties;

(c) The payment of educational expenses, if any;

(d) The payment of extraordinary expenses of the child, if any;

(e) Child care expenses, if any;

(f) Transportation expenses, if any.

8. If the proposed parenting plans of the parties differ and the parties
cannot resolve the differences or if any party fails to file a proposed
parenting plan, upon motion of either party and an opportunity for the
parties to be heard, the court shall enter a temporary order containing a
parenting plan setting forth the arrangements specified in subsection 7 of
this section which will remain in effect until further order of the court.
The temporary order entered by the court shall not create a preference for
the court in its adjudication of final custody, child support or visitation.

9. Within one hundred twenty days after August 28, 1998, the Missouri
supreme court shall have in effect guidelines for a parenting plan form which
may be used by the parties pursuant to this section in any dissolution of
marriage, legal separation or modification proceeding involving issues of
custody and visitation relating to the child.

452.320. 1. Except in a covenant marriage, if both of the parties
by petition or otherwise have stated under oath or affirmation that the
marriage is irretrievably broken, or one of the parties has so stated and the
other has not denied it, the court, after considering the aforesaid petition
or statement, and after a hearing thereon shall make a finding whether or not
the marriage is irretrievably broken and shall enter an order of dissolution
or dismissal accordingly.

2. Except in the case of a covenant marriage, if one of the
parties has denied under oath or affirmation that the marriage is
irretrievably broken, the court shall consider all relevant factors,
including the circumstances that gave rise to the filing of the petition and
the prospect of reconciliation, and after hearing the evidence shall

(1) Make a finding whether or not the marriage is irretrievably broken,
and in order for the court to find that the marriage is irretrievably broken,
the petitioner shall satisfy the court of one or more of the following facts:

(a) That the respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it
intolerable to live with the respondent;

(b) That the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner
cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;

(c) That the respondent has abandoned the petitioner for a continuous
period of at least six months preceding the presentation of the petition;

(d) That the parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart by
mutual consent for a continuous period of twelve months immediately preceding
the filing of the petition;

(e) That the parties to the marriage have lived separate and apart for a
continuous period of at least twenty-four months preceding the filing of the
petition; or

(2) Continue the matter for further hearing not less than thirty days or
more than six months later, or as soon thereafter as the matter may be
reached on the court's calendar, and may suggest to the parties that they
seek counseling. No court shall require counseling as a condition precedent
to a decree, nor shall any employee of any court, or of the state or any
political subdivision of the state, be utilized as a marriage counselor. At
the adjourned hearing, the court shall make a finding whether the marriage is
irretrievably broken as set forth in subdivision (1) above and shall enter an
order of dissolution or dismissal accordingly.

Legislation | Statistics | Articles/Opinion | Quotations | Polls | Other family-related articles
Originally posted and maintained by Americans for Divorce Reform; now maintained by John Crouch. You can call me at (703) 528-6700 or e-mail me through my law office's web site.