Must you take a blood test before getting married?

It used to be that many states required such blood tests. Now, only Montana still requires a blood test for females for rubella (see LegalSpeak, p. 274). The marriage applicants can decline the blood test only if they file an informed consent form acknowledging an understanding of rubella information and declining the immunity testing. Rubella, often called German measles, can cause a wide variety of problems if a mother is infected with the disease during pregnancy.

What is a covenant marriage?

A covenant marriage is a distinct type of marriage—available in only a few states—in which the parties agree that marriage is a lifelong bond between them. These individuals willingly enter authorized pre-marital counseling and agree that grounds for divorce for them will be more limited for them. A party can obtain a divorce in a covenant marriage only when there has been a complete and total breach of the marriage agreement—such as adultery or the commission of a felony. What this means is that parties who enter into a covenant marriage will not be able to be divorced simply on the basis of irreconcilable differences.

What states allow covenant marriages?

Louisiana became the first state to provide for this type of marriage in 1997. Arizona passed its law in 1998 and then Arkansas passed its law allowing covenant marriages in 2001 (Arkansas law A.C.A. 9-11-803(a)(1) states: "A covenant marriage is a marriage entered into by 1 male and 1 female who understand and agree that the marriage between them is a lifelong relationship.") Bills authorizing covenant marriages have been introduced in several other states but have not yet passed.

Can parties who enter into a regular marriage change or convert that marriage into a covenant marriage?

Parties can do so in the state of Arizona, which provides that parties to an existing marriage simply must sign and file the statement of covenant marriage, which reads:

We solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for as long as they both live. We have chosen each other carefully and have received premarital counseling on the nature, purposes and responsibilities of marriage. 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.

LegalSpeak: Montana marriage law requiring blood test— form 40-1-203 proof of age and medical certificate— waiver of medical certificate requirement

(1) Before a person authorized by law to issue marriage licenses may issue a marriage license, each applicant for a license shall provide a birth certificate or other satisfactory evidence of age and, if the applicant is a minor, the approval required by form 40-1-213. Each female applicant, unless exempted on medical grounds by rule of the department of public health and human services or as provided in subsection (2), shall file with the license issuer a medical certificate from a physician who is licensed to practice medicine and surgery in any state or United States territory or from any other person authorized by rule of the department to issue a medical certificate. The certificate must state that the applicant has been given a blood test for rubella immunity, that the report of the test results has been shown to the applicant tested, and that the other party to the proposed marriage contract has examined the report.

(2) In lieu of a medical certificate, applicants for a marriage license may file an informed consent form acknowledging receipt and understanding of written rubella immunity information and declining rubella immunity testing. Filing of an informed consent form will effect a waiver of the requirement for a blood test for rubella immunity. Informed consent must be recorded on a form provided by the department and must be signed by both applicants. The informed consent form must include:

(a) the reasons for undergoing a blood test for rubella immunity;

(b) the information that the results would provide about the woman's rubella antibody status;

(c) the risks associated with remaining uninformed of the rubella antibody status, including the potential risks posed to a fetus, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy; and

(d) contact information indicating where applicants may obtain additional information regarding rubella and rubella immunity testing.

(3) A person who by law is able to obtain a marriage license in this state is also able to give consent to any examinations, tests, or waivers required or allowed by this section. In submitting the blood specimen to the laboratory, the physician or other person authorized to issue a medical certificate shall designate that it is a premarital test.

Many states have rules that require testing of pregnant women for HIV, but that such requirements apply to pregnant women, not simply those who are married.

With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do declare that our marriage will be bound by Arizona 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.

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