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Covenant Marriage

The Movement to Reclaim Tradition in America

Steven L. Nock, Laura A. Sanchez, and James D. Wright

Publication Year: 2008

Regardless how you interpret the statistics, the divorce rate in the United States is staggering. But, what if the government could change this? Would families be better off if new public policies made it more difficult for couples to separate? This book explores a movement that emerged over the past fifteen years, which aims to do just that. Guided by certain politicians and religious leaders who herald marriage as a solution to a range of longstanding social problems, a handful of state governments enacted "covenant marriage" laws, which require couples to choose between a conventional and a covenant marriage. While the familiar type of union requires little effort to enter and can be terminated by either party unilaterally, covenant marriage requires premarital counseling, an agreement bound by fault-based rules or lengthy waiting periods to exit, and a legal stipulation that divorce can be granted only after the couple has received counseling. Drawing on interviews with over 700 couples-half of whom have chosen covenant unions-this book not only evaluates the viability of public policy in the intimate affairs of marriage, it also explores how growing public discourse is causing men and women to rethink the meaning of marriage.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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p. vii

List of Tables

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p. ix

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xv

We were just as surprised as everyone else when, in 1997, Louisiana enacted the most sweeping marriage and divorce reform of the twentieth century. But interest in, and concern about, trends in marriage rates, unwed births, divorce, and cohabitation had been growing rapidly since the late...

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Chapter 1: Covenant Marriage and the Marriage Movement

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pp. 1-20

Earlier in this century, divorce was rare and carried a burdensome stigma. For children, divorce brought the shame of a “broken home,” and for adults, the suspicion of infidelity and moral failure. Back then, marriage for most was for better or for worse, “until death do us part.” By the 1980s and 1990s...

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Chapter 2: Covenant Marriage in Louisiana: Legal and Historical Background

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pp. 21-39

To our knowledge, the first covenant marriage proposal was introduced by Henri Mazeaud in France in 1945 (Dalloz 1945, 11–12). At the time, the French Civil Code was being revised, and Mazeaud proposed a unique solution to the debate...

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Chapter 3: The Implementation of Covenant Marriage in Louisiana

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pp. 40-61

It is pretty obvious what covenant marriage supporters wanted to happen as the innovation made its way from a relatively high-profile piece of legislation to the daily humdrum of office routine in parish clerks of court offices across the state. Although a choice, it was a choice...

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Chapter 4: Who Wants a Covenant Marriage?

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pp. 62-77

Although the implementation research described in chapter 3 was an important component in our covenant marriage research agenda, the centerpiece of that agenda was our longitudinal (panel) survey of newlyweds in Louisiana. Between 1999 and 2004...

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Chapter 5: The Role of Religion in Covenant and Standard Marriages

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pp. 78-97

The purpose of this chapter is to explore how our couples perceive the role of religion in their marriages, as well as their responsibilities as pro-marriage advocates. Since the inception of covenant marriage in 1997, the large majority who elect covenant...

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Chapter 6: The Ongoing Marriage

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pp. 98-115

The first few years of marriage demand changes and adjustments for most couples. Partners need to reconcile their individual beliefs and concerns and coordinate their public lives and responsibilities. Not only are the partners different individuals, each with personal values and beliefs...

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Chapter 7: Divorce, Religiosity, and Counseling

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pp. 116-140

The greatest success that any component of the marriage movement could possibly show would be a reduction in divorce rates. This chapter uses information collected in our surveys to compare divorce rates for standard and covenant couples, and draws on our...

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Chapter 8: Conclusion

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pp. 141-152

Is covenant marriage effective public policy for strengthening marriage? It may be tempting to conclude that the covenant marriage experiment in Louisiana was a failure. After all, there were very obvious problems with the implementation of the law, and....

Appendix A: Sampling and Research Methods

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pp. 153-160

Appendix B: The Law of Covenant Marriage in Louisiana

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pp. 161-168

Appendix C: Forms and Documents for Covenant Marriage

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pp. 169-172

Appendix D: Methods and Measures for Chapter 6 (The Ongoing Marriage)

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pp. 173-177


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pp. 179-185


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pp. 187-192

About the Authors

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p. 193

E-ISBN-13: 9780813546490
E-ISBN-10: 0813546494
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813543253
Print-ISBN-10: 0813543258

Page Count: 212
Illustrations: 5 tables
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 318240471
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Covenant Marriage

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Subject Headings

  • Law reform -- Louisiana.
  • Marriage law -- Louisiana.
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