Requirements For a divorce in Arkansas
Residency: You or your spouse must have lived in Arkansas at least 60 days before you file for divorce and for at least 3 months before the judgment is given.
Separation Period: If you are filing for a no-fault divorce, your spouse and you must live separately for a period of at least 18 months. The separation should be voluntary. However, it can be voluntary for just one of the spouses. During the separation period of 18 months, your spouse and you should not have cohabitated.
Usually, separation for a period of 18 months and general indignities are the most common grounds for divorce in Arkansas, as these are easy to prove. The grounds should have occurred in the last 5 years. In case, your spouse doesn’t want a divorce, then these grounds must be proved in the court at the final hearing, where you must bring a written affidavit or a witness as a proof of your testimony of the grounds and residency. If your spouse and you agree to the divorce, then there is no requirement for a witness.
Grounds for an Arkansas divorce
In Arkansas, you can file for divorce on no-fault grounds and also fault-based grounds.
In Arkansas, to file for a no-fault divorce, in the complaint, you must state that you have been living separately from your spouse voluntarily for 18 months continuously without cohabitation. In the case of an uncontested divorce, you will require to submit a witness affidavit. Or, in the case of a contested divorce, you must have a witness who can testify in court that your spouse and you have lived apart for a period of 18 months.
You can use one of the many fault grounds in case you do not want to wait for a period of 18 months before filing for divorce. However, this is a more complex process, as you will then have to prove the grounds. The fault-based grounds in Arkansas are:
Conviction for felony
Cruel treatment that can endanger your life
Causing indignities to your spouse that makes his/her condition unbearable (this includes adultery, abuse and desertion)
Incurable sanity for 1 year and living apart for 3 years
Covenant marriage is a legally unique type of marriage, where the couple getting married agree to undergo pre-marital counseling and if they seek for a divorce, later on, they agree to have more limited grounds. Arkansas is among the few states in the United States that has the provision for covenant marriage. And, to end a covenant marriage, you must prove one of the many specified fault-based grounds.
Step 1: Figure out which forms you need
The first step to filing for a divorce in Arkansas is to fill out the proper forms and then submitting or filing them in the county court. The first form you must complete is the “Complaint for Divorce”, which must state that either your spouse or you have been a resident of the state of Arkansas for at least a period of 60 days and it must also state the grounds for divorce.
The complaint must also address other issues that the court must address such as distribution of property and debt, spousal support, child custody and support.
Some of the forms needed to file for a divorce in Arkansas are:
Answer Form: This form shows proof that the copies of the divorce papers which have been filed have been received by the other party.
Dissolution of Marriage: This form consists of the dissolution forms and the marital settlement agreement.
Divorce Petition: This form is required to start the divorce process in Arkansas.
Divorce Summons: This is provided to the spouse once the petitioner has filed for divorce and must be filled 20 days after receiving the petition.
Divorce Verification: This is used after the Divorce Petition is filled.
Filing Your Forms
Once you have filled in the forms, you need to give your signed divorce complaint to your county’s circuit court or the clerk’s office where you are filing for divorce. You will then be given a copy of the complaint with a notation and date stamp acknowledging that your complaint has been filed with the court.
You will then receive a “Standard Restraining Order” which essentially states that both spouses must not waste the assets or funds and both spouses must not harass each other. Your divorce will be granted only after 30 days of filing your divorce complaint in Arkansas.
Step 2: Serving your spouse
Once you have filed your complaint, you must serve a copy of the complaint to your spouse, which can be served in several ways.
Your spouse or his/her lawyer can accept the service and your spouse must sign the Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service of Summons form.
The complaint may also be served by your county sheriff’s office personally or left at your spouse’s residence.
You can serve your spouse the complaint of divorce via certified or registered mail.
If you cannot locate your spouse, the complaint of divorce can still be served by getting the court to issue a “warning order”, which is published in the local newspaper or any publication in the county.
Step 3: Contested or Uncontested divorce?
Contested Divorce (High Cost)
If your spouse and you are not able to agree on the various terms of divorce such as property division, alimony, child custody and child support, etc., then this is known as a contested divorce. This can be a long, expensive and difficult process, which may require you to hire an attorney to represent your case in the court, resolve the disagreements and protect your interests.
Uncontested Divorce (Low Cost)
An uncontested divorce is the simplest form of divorce and low cost too, where your spouse and you agree on most issues concerning the divorce such as property distribution, child custody and support, alimony, etc. If the divorce is an uncontested one, both spouses usually work together to complete the Divorce Settlement Agreement that contains all the issues pertaining to your divorce and how you want to resolve them.
Once you file the Divorce Settlement Agreement, the court may decide to have a hearing or may decide to grant you a divorce without a hearing. If the judge feels that the terms of the Divorce Settlement Agreement do not support an equitable distribution of the marital property and assets, he/she may reject the provisions set in the settlement agreement.
Step 4: DIY divorce or hire an attorney?
Do-It-Yourself Divorce in Arkansas
You can handle your divorce by yourself without an attorney and a do-it-yourself divorce is a good option if the divorce is uncontested i.e. where there are no children, if the property involved is minimal and if your spouse and you agree on most of the issues. a do-it-yourself divorce can help you save time and is quite inexpensive too. However, you must have lived in Arkansas for 60 days before you can file for divorce here.
Online Divorce Service
If your divorce is uncontested and your spouse and you agree on most of the terms of the divorce, you can make use of an online divorce service to prepare your documents to file for divorce. An online divorce service is quicker, easier and cheaper too.
The online service understands the entire Arkansas divorce and court system and they will help you through the entire process. Once you give all the information, the staff of the online service will review all your information and prepare all the documents required for you to file a divorce as per the requirements of the Arkansas State.
They will help you in preparing all your divorce documents, which you just need to sign and submit in the court in the county where you live.
Step 5: Dealing with the major issues
Property Division in Arkansas Divorce
Community vs Separate Property
Community property, which is also known as marital property comprises the property, assets and debts acquired by your spouse and you during the course of your marriage. Separate property is the property which is owned by each spouse before the marriage or which is received during the course of marriage as an inheritance or a gift. Usually, separate property is not divided in a divorce. However, separate property can become community property, if you put your spouse’s name on the title of the property.
The property that you can keep as non-marital property include:
Any property got before the marriage.
Property which is acquired in exchange for any non-marital property.
Any property which is an inheritance or gift during the course of your marriage.
Any property which is defined as non-marital by means of a written agreement.
Any income or increase in the value of any non-marital property.
Claims for personal injuries, worker’s compensation and Social Security disability.
All the other property except the above is considered as marital property and divided equally unless the court feels that there should be an unequal distribution on basis of the following factors:
Duration of marriage.
Health, age and position of both spouses.
Sources of income and the amount.
Vocational skills and employability.
Any marital misconduct.
Estate, needs, liabilities and opportunities for acquisition of income and capital assets in the future by both spouses.
Contribution of both spouses to acquisition, appreciation and maintenance of the marital property.
Income tax obligations.
Child Custody in Arkansas
In case your spouse and you have any minor children from the marriage, then there will be a custody determination. Usually, in the past, one of the parents was given the custody of the children while the other had visitation rights. Most times, the children lived with the parent who had the custodial rights, who also made the everyday decisions for the children.
The other spouse was given visitation times with the children and most of the major decisions were taken by both the parents, for example, medical care or schooling. However, today the trend is for both parents to play an active role in the lives of the children, which is essentially the concept of joint custody.
In Arkansas, the child custody law determines the custody on basis of the best interests and welfare of the child irrespective of the sex of the parent. If the child is old enough and has the capacity to reason, the judge may consider the child’s wishes. However, the Arkansas State supports joint custody.
Spousal Support in Arkansas
The alimony law of Arkansas states that alimony can be awarded on basis of:
The circumstances of both spouses and it depends on the nature of the case.
Fault grounds may be taken into consideration.
Alimony may be awarded to the spouse seeking it for an indefinite or limited period of time, in installments or as a lump sum amount.
Step 6: Finalizing your Arkansas Divorce
Preparing For Court
When you serve your spouse and your spouse answers, you must along with your spouse undergo the “discovery process” that involves exchanging financial information, child custody evaluations, respond to questions and giving and taking depositions, which is basically giving testimony under oath.
In the case of an uncontested divorce, your spouse and you may have to attend a hearing, where the judge will ask a few questions and if both your spouse and you agree to all the things, then a Decree of Divorce is given. In the case of an uncontested divorce, you must present a witness affidavit who will verify that your spouse and you have lived separately for 18 months.
And, if you’re unable to reach an agreement on various issues with your spouse, then you and your spouse must attend a trial and present your evidence to a circuit judge from Arkansas. All the evidence presented will be evaluated by the judge, who will then make decisions about the various facts of the case and finally issue a judgment of how all the issues will be resolved including:
Division of property and debt.
Custody and support of child/children.
You must also present the testimony of a witness who can verify that your spouse and you have lived separately for 18 months.
From the time that the divorce complaint is filed, it will take at least 30 days to get a judgment. And, if the divorce is a contested one and you cannot agree to any of the terms of the divorce, then the judgment can take longer.