Texas SB 644 -- Covenant Marriage


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By: Haywood S.B. No. 644

(Passed in the Senate in May, 1999 and sent to the House)

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT relating to creating a covenant marriage.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1. Section 2.002, Family Code, is amended to read as follows:

Sec. 2.002. APPLICATION FOR LICENSE.
(a) Except as provided by Section 2.006, each person applying for a license must:
(1) appear before the county clerk;
(2) submit the person's proof of identity and age as
provided by this subchapter;
(3) provide the information applicable to that person
for which spaces are provided in the application for a marriage license;
(4) mark the appropriate boxes provided in the application; and
(5) take the oath printed on the application and sign
the application before the county clerk.

(b) A person applying for a license for a covenant marriage
must complete an affidavit of intent to contract a covenant
marriage described by Section 2.601.

SECTION 2. Section 2.004, Family Code, is amended by adding
Subsection (c) to read as follows:

(c) The application form for a covenant marriage must
include the following statement:
"We, (name of husband) and (name of wife), 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. Section 2.009, Family Code, is amended by adding
Subsection (e) to read as follows:

(e) The county clerk shall indicate on the marriage license
whether the license is for a covenant marriage.

SECTION 4. Chapter 2, Family Code, is amended by adding
Subchapter G to read as follows:

SUBCHAPTER G. COVENANT MARRIAGE

Sec. 2.601. AFFIDAVIT OF INTENT TO CONTRACT COVENANT
MARRIAGE. Each applicant for a covenant marriage shall submit a
signed and notarized affidavit of intent to enter a covenant
marriage. The affidavit must contain the following statement:
"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 that 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 pamphlet on covenant marriage and
understand that a covenant marriage is for life. We understand
that we can get divorced or separated only for a reason stated in
the pamphlet on covenant marriage. 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 Texas law on
covenant marriage and we promise to love, honor, and care for one
another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives."

Sec. 2.602. DESIGNATING EXISTING MARRIAGE TO COVENANT MARRIAGE.

(a) A married couple may designate their marriage as a
covenant marriage by filing a signed and notarized affidavit of
intent to designate the marriage as a covenant marriage.

(b) The affidavit of intent to designate a marriage as a
covenant marriage must contain the following statement:
"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 and have received counseling on
the obligations of a covenant marriage. We have read the pamphlet
on covenant marriage and understand that a covenant marriage is for
life. We understand that we can get divorced or separated only for
a reason stated in the pamphlet on covenant marriage. 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 Texas 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."

(c) The applicants must file the affidavit with:
(1) the clerk of the county that issued the marriage
license under which the applicants were married; or
(2) if the marriage was entered into outside this
state, the clerk of the county in which the couple resides.

(d) A marriage becomes a covenant marriage when a couple
files the affidavit of intent to designate a marriage as a covenant
marriage with the county clerk.

Sec. 2.603. COUNSELING REQUIREMENT.
(a) Before a couple may enter into a covenant marriage or designate a marriage as a covenant marriage, the couple must receive counseling from a person
legally authorized to engage in marriage counseling.

(b) The counselor shall:
(1) ensure that the couple discusses important personal issues, including financial issues and conflict resolution;
(2) discuss the seriousness of a covenant marriage;
(3) inform the couple that a covenant marriage is a commitment for life; and
(4) inform the couple of the obligation to seek
marital counseling in times of marital difficulties.

(c) The counselor may discuss any other topic the counselor
considers important to the couple's understanding of the marital commitment.

Sec. 2.604. PAMPHLET ON COVENANT MARRIAGE.

(a) The attorney general shall prepare a pamphlet consistent with the
requirements of this subchapter providing a full explanation of the
terms and conditions of a covenant marriage. The pamphlet must
list the grounds for divorce under Section 6.903 and the grounds
for legal separation under Section 6.905.

(b) The attorney general shall provide the pamphlet to the
county clerks in the state. A county clerk shall provide the
pamphlet to each person applying for a license for a covenant marriage.

SECTION 5. Subchapter A, Chapter 6, Family Code, is amended
by adding Section 6.009 to read as follows:

Sec. 6.009. APPLICATION TO COVENANT MARRIAGE. This
subchapter does not apply to a covenant marriage.

SECTION 6. Chapter 6, Family Code, is amended by adding
Subchapter J to read as follows:

SUBCHAPTER J. DISSOLUTION OF COVENANT MARRIAGE AND LEGAL SEPARATION

Sec. 6.901. DISSOLUTION OR LEGAL SEPARATION. A spouse in a
covenant marriage who meets the requirements of this subchapter may
file a suit for:
(1) dissolution of the covenant marriage; or
(2) legal separation.

Sec. 6.902. COUNSELING REQUIREMENT BEFORE DISSOLUTION.

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a spouse in a covenant
marriage may not file a suit to dissolve a covenant marriage unless
the parties to the marriage have received counseling from a person
legally authorized to engage in marriage counseling in an attempt
to reconcile the marriage. The couple shall participate in the
counseling until the counselor or both spouses determine that the
marriage is not salvageable or upon the completion of 20 sessions
or 16 hours of marriage counseling, whichever is the lesser amount.

(b) A spouse is not subject to the counseling requirement of
Subsection (a) if the spouse has obtained a protective order
against the other spouse under Title 4.

Sec. 6.903. GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE OF COVENANT MARRIAGE.

(a) The court may grant a divorce in a covenant marriage in favor of a spouse if:
(1) the other spouse has committed adultery;
(2) the other spouse has:
(A) been convicted of a felony;
(B) been imprisoned for at least one year in a state penitentiary, a federal penitentiary, or a penitentiary of another state; and
(C) not been pardoned;
(3) the other spouse:
(A) left the complaining spouse with the intention of abandonment; and
(B) remained away from the complaining spouse for at least one year;
(4) the other spouse committed family violence as defined by Section 71.004;
(5) the spouses have lived apart without cohabitation for at least two years; or
(6) an order of legal separation has been issued to one of the spouses under Section 6.905 and the spouses have lived apart without reconciliation for at least:
(A) one year after the date a separation order
is entered if there are no minor children from the marriage; or
(B) one year and six months after the date a
separation order is entered if there is a minor child from the marriage.

(b) The court may not grant a divorce under Subsection
(a)(2) if the spouse who was convicted of a felony was convicted
solely on the testimony of the other spouse.

(c) The court may grant a divorce in a covenant marriage in
favor of a spouse on the grounds of insupportability under Section
6.001 if the spouse who filed the petition has obtained a
protective order against the other spouse under Title 4.

Sec. 6.904. PROCEDURES IN A SUIT FOR DISSOLUTION. The
procedures in Subchapters D-H apply to a suit for dissolution of a covenant marriage.

Sec. 6.905. LEGAL SEPARATION.

(a) A spouse in a covenant marriage may file a suit to obtain from the court an order of legal separation if:
(1) the other spouse has committed adultery;
(2) the other spouse has:
(A) been convicted of a felony;
(B) been imprisoned for at least one year in a state penitentiary, a federal penitentiary, or a penitentiary of another state; and
(C) not been pardoned;
(3) the other spouse:
(A) left the complaining spouse with the intention of abandonment; and
(B) remained away from the complaining spouse for at least six months;
(4) the other spouse committed family violence as defined by Section 71.004;
(5) the spouses have lived apart without cohabitation for at least two years; or
(6) the other spouse habitually abuses illegal drugs or alcohol.

(b) The court may not issue an order of legal separation
under Subsection (a)(2) if the spouse who was convicted of a felony
was convicted on the testimony of the other spouse.

(c) The procedures in Subchapters D-H apply to a suit for
legal separation of a covenant marriage.

SECTION 7. Section 8.002, Family Code, is amended to read as
follows:

Sec. 8.002. ELIGIBILITY FOR MAINTENANCE. (a) In a suit for
dissolution of a marriage or in a proceeding for maintenance in a
court with personal jurisdiction over both former spouses following
the dissolution of their marriage by a court that lacked personal
jurisdiction over an absent spouse, the court may order maintenance
for either spouse only if:
(1) the spouse from whom maintenance is requested was
convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a criminal
offense that also constitutes an act of family violence under Title
4 [Chapter 71] and the offense occurred:
(A) within two years before the date on which a
suit for dissolution of the marriage is filed; or
(B) while the suit is pending; or
(2) the duration of the marriage was 10 years or
longer, the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property,
including property distributed to the spouse under this code, to
provide for the spouse's minimum reasonable needs, as limited by
Section 8.005, and the spouse seeking maintenance:
(A) is unable to support himself or herself
through appropriate employment because of an incapacitating
physical or mental disability;
(B) is the custodian of a child who requires
substantial care and personal supervision because a physical or
mental disability makes it necessary, taking into consideration the
needs of the child, that the spouse not be employed outside the
home; or
(C) clearly lacks earning ability in the labor
market adequate to provide support for the spouse's minimum
reasonable needs, as limited by Section 8.005.

(b) The court shall issue a temporary order for maintenance
in favor of a spouse who files for:
(1) legal separation of a covenant marriage based on
abandonment under Section 6.905(a)(3); or
(2) dissolution of a covenant marriage.

SECTION 8. Subsection (a), Section 118.011, Local Government
Code, is amended to read as follows:

(a) A county clerk shall collect the following fees for
services rendered to any person:
[(1) through (6) not shown here. In bill, unchanged from existing law.]
(7) Marriage License (Sec. 118.018) ........... $25.00
(8) Covenant Marriage License (Sec. 118.018) .. $12.50
(9) Affidavit of Intent to Designate a Marriage as a Covenant Marriage .. $12.50
(10) Declaration of Informal Marriage (Sec. 118.019) ...... $25.00
... [irrelevant and unchanged statute text not shown here]
SECTION 10. This Act takes effect September 1, 1999.

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