SB 1234
Establishes procedures for entering into and dissolving covenant marriages
LR Number:
Last Action:
1/25/2024 - Second Read and Referred S Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
Journal Page:
Effective Date:
August 28, 2024

Current Bill Summary

SB 1234 - This act establishes the "Missouri Covenant Marriage Act". Persons with the legal capacity to marry under current law may enter into a covenant marriage by declaring their intent on their marriage license application. The marriage license shall be designated as a covenant marriage license and shall be recorded as such and shall be considered valid and recognized by all governmental agencies, with all the benefits and rights of a standard marriage license.

This act specifies the additional declarations and affidavits to be submitted by the parties to the covenant marriage and by the clergy or counselors who provided at least 8 hours of premarital counseling to the parties. Premarital counseling shall include: (1) a discussion of the seriousness of covenant marriage, (2) communication of the fact that covenant marriage is a commitment for life, (3) a discussion of the obligation to seek marital counseling in times of marital difficulties, and (4) a discussion of the limited grounds for legally terminating a covenant marriage by dissolution or legal separation.

If a husband and wife have previously obtained a standard marriage license, they may convert that to a covenant marriage license by submitting a declaration and affidavit, as specified in the act. The husband and wife shall not be required to receive premarital counseling or have the converted covenant marriage solemnized.

The state of Missouri shall publish information on covenant marriages on its website.

Additionally, this act establishes the requirements for terminating a covenant marriage. A husband or wife may file a petition in court for legal separation at any time, but a dissolution may only be granted after the court has first ordered a legal separation. The court shall order both parties to attend at least 40 hours of marital counseling prior to ordering a dissolution of marriage. This counseling may be provided by either a faith-based organization or a professional marriage counselor or agency. The court shall not enter a decree of dissolution until at least 2 years have passed after the initial filing for legal separation or dissolution and after first ordering a legal separation, for the following reasons: (1) adultery by either spouse; (2) habitual drug or alcohol abuse by either spouse; (3) a spouse has committed a felony and been sentenced to death or imprisonment; (4) a spouse has physically or sexually abused the other spouse, a child, a relative permanently living in the matrimonial domicile, or has committed domestic violence or severe emotional abuse; (5) a spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile and has not been in contact with the other spouse for at least 2 years; (6) the spouses have been living separately and continuously without reconciliation for at least 2 years; or (7) the husband and wife have both attended at least 40 hours of marital counseling over the course of at least 2 years.

Finally, whether a husband and wife have entered into a standard or covenant marriage, if a court has ordered divorcing or separating parents to attend a parenting education class, then the parties may opt for a faith-based alternative program if that program informs the parties of the effects of divorce on families and children.

This act is identical to SB 258 (2023), SB 1117 (2022), and HB 1693 (2022).



No Amendments Found.