Texas 1999 H.B. 350 - Covenant Marriage - BILL ANALYSIS


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HBA-DMD, BTC H.B. 350 76(R) BILL ANALYSIS

Office of House Bill Analysis H.B. 350
By: Wohlgemuth
Juvenile Justice & Family Issues
2/10/1999
Introduced

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

Texas has maintained a system of no-fault divorce since the 1970s. The
availability of no-fault divorce has been cited as a reason for existing
divorce rates. H.B. 350 creates and makes available covenant marriages to
couples who are about to be married or couples who have already been
married. To be eligible for a covenant marriage, engaged couples must
attend counseling that is conducted by a licensed counselor or member of
the clergy. The bill also establishes requirements that must be met for a
divorce under covenant marriage.

RULEMAKING AUTHORITY

It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does
not delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer,
department, agency, or institution.

SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS

SECTION 1. Amends Section 2.002, Family Code, to require persons applying
for a license for a covenant marriage to complete an affidavit of intent to
contract a covenant marriage.

SECTION 2. Amends Section 2.004, Family Code, by adding Subsection (c) to
require the application form for a covenant marriage to state, "We,
(husband's name) and (wife's name), declare our intent to contract a
covenant marriage and, accordingly, have executed an affidavit of intent to
contract a covenant marriage attached to this application."

SECTION 3. Amends Section 2.009, Family Code, by adding Subsection (e) to
require the county clerk to note on the marriage license whether it is for
a covenant marriage.

SECTION 4. Amends Chapter 2, Family Code, by adding Subchapter G, as
follows:

SUBCHAPTER G. COVENANT MARRIAGE

Sec. 2.601. AFFIDAVIT OF INTENT TO CONTRACT COVENANT MARRIAGE.
Requires applicants for a covenant marriage to submit a signed and
notarized affidavit of their intent to enter into the marriage, which must
contain certain prescribed language.

Sec. 2.602. DESIGNATING EXISTING MARRIAGE TO COVENANT MARRIAGE.
Authorizes a married couple to designate their marriage as a covenant
marriage by filing a signed and notarized affidavit of intent to designate
the marriage as a covenant marriage. Requires the affidavit to contain
certain prescribed language and to be filed with the county clerk that
issued the marriage license under which applicants were married or the
county clerk in which the couple resides if married outside of the state.
Provides that a marriage becomes a covenant marriage when a couple files
the affidavit of intent.

Sec. 2.603. COUNSELING REQUIREMENT. Provides that a couple must receive counseling from a legally authorized marriage counselor before they enter
into a covenant marriage or designate a marriage as a covenant marriage.
Requires the counselor to: ensure that the couple discusses important
personal issues, including financial issues and conflict resolution;
discuss the seriousness of a covenant marriage; inform the couple that such
a marriage is a life commitment and that it is their obligation to seek
marital counseling during difficulties; and discuss any other topic the
counselor considers important.

Sec. 2.604. PAMPHLET ON COVENANT MARRIAGE. Requires the attorney general to prepare a pamphlet providing a full explanation of the covenant marriage
and listing the grounds for divorce under Section 6.903 and the grounds for
legal separation under Section 6.904, Family Code. Requires the attorney
general to distribute the pamphlet to the county clerks who are required to
give a copy of the pamphlet to each person applying for this license.

SECTION 5. Amends Subchapter A, Chapter 6, Family Code, by adding Section
6.009, as follows:
Sec. 6.009. APPLICATION TO COVENANT MARRIAGE. Provides that this
subchapter does not apply to a covenant marriage.

SECTION 6. Amends Chapter 6, Family Code, by adding Subchapter (J), as
follows:

SUBCHAPTER J. DISSOLUTION OF COVENANT MARRIAGE
AND LEGAL SEPARATION

Sec. 6.901. DISSOLUTION OR LEGAL SEPARATION. Authorizes spouses to file suit for dissolution of the covenant marriage or legal separation.

Sec. 6.902. COUNSELING REQUIREMENT BEFORE DISSOLUTION. Prohibits a spouse in a covenant marriage from filing a suit to dissolve the marriage unless the parties in the marriage have received counseling from a legally
authorized marriage counselor. Requires the couple's participation in the
counseling until the counselor or both spouses determine that the marriage
is not salvageable.

Sec. 6.903. GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE OF COVENANT MARRIAGE. Authorizes the court to grant a divorce in a covenant marriage in favor of a spouse if the other spouse committed adultery; has been convicted of a felony, has been
imprisoned for at least a year in a state, federal, or other state's
penitentiary and has not been pardoned; left the complaining spouse with
the intention of abandonment and remained away from the complaining spouse
for at least two years; committed family violence as defined by Section
71.004 (Family Violence); Further provides that the court may grant a
divorce if the spouses have not cohabitated for at least 3 years; or an
order of legal separation has been issued to one of the spouses under
Section 6.904 and they have lived apart without reconciliation for at least
two years after the date a separation order is entered if there are no
minor children from the marriage, or two years and six months if there is a
minor child from the marriage. Prohibits the court from granting a divorce
if the spouse convicted of a felony was convicted solely on the other
spouse's testimony.

Sec. 6.904. LEGAL SEPARATION. Authorizes a spouse in a covenant marriage
to file a suit for an order of legal separation if the other spouse
committed adultery; has been convicted of a felony, has been imprisoned for
at least a year in a state, federal, or other state's penitentiary and has
not been pardoned; left the complaining spouse with the intention of
abandonment and remained away from the complaining spouse for at least one
year; committed family violence as defined by Section 71.004; the spouses
have not cohabitated for at least 3 years; or the other spouse habitually
abuses illegal drugs or alcohol. Prohibits the court from granting an
order of legal separation if the spouse convicted of a felony was convicted
on the other spouse's testimony. Provides that procedures in this chapter
for a suit of dissolution of a marriage apply to a suit for legal
separation of a covenant marriage.

SECTION 7. Amends Section 8.002, Family Code, to create Subsection (a) from
existing text. Replaces "Chapter 71" with "Title 4" when referring to an
act of family violence. Adds Subsection (b) to require the court to issue
a temporary order for maintenance in favor of a spouse who files for legal
separation of a covenant marriage based on abandonment under Section
6.904(a)(3) or dissolution of a covenant marriage.

SECTION 8. Amends Section 118.011(a), Local Government Code, by adding
designated fees related to this chapter to the list of fees required to be
charged by the county clerk. Redesignates Subdivisions (9)-(10) as
(11)-(12).

SECTION 9. Amends Section 118.018(a), Local Government Code, to qualify
"Covenant Marriage License" or "Affidavit of Intent to Designate a Marriage
as a Covenant Marriage" as a "marriage license" for which a fee is to be
paid.

SECTION 10. Effective date: September 1, 1999.

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