In Arkansas, divorcing couples can end their marriage in as little as 31 days. This is welcome news for people who want to avoid lengthy delays and expensive lawyer's fees. However, Arkansas also provides resources for couples who need to work out more complex issues.
Under Arkansas divorce law, anyone who files a complaint for divorce must be an Arkansas resident for at least 60 days. The case must also be filed in the county where the plaintiff (the person filing) lives.
Under Arkansas law, a divorcing couple must choose at least one of the following grounds for divorce:
- A spouse's felony conviction or conviction of a serious crime
- Repeatedly being drunk for at least one year
- Cruel treatment that puts a spouse's life at risk
- General indignities that make the marriage unbearable
- Living apart continuously for at least 18 months
- Incurable insanity where the insane spouse has been committed to a mental institution for at least three years
- Willfully not providing financial support to a spouse
Arkansas is one of a handful of states that permit couples to enter a covenant marriage. This form of marriage requires both parties to attend premarital counseling. Additionally, the divorce requirements for covenant marriage are slightly different from those of traditional marriage. To obtain a divorce for your covenant marriage, you and your spouse must attend marital counseling first to try to work out the issues in your marriage. Additionally, the grounds for your divorce must have occurred within the last five years. The grounds for a divorce from a covenant marriage include:
- One spouse has been convicted of a felony or serious crime
- Physical or sexual abuse of one of your children
- Living apart for at least two years
- If you have children, living apart for at least two and a half years
- If you have children and the other spouse abused one of them, living apart for at least one year
How to Begin
You will need to complete the following steps to file for divorce in Arkansas:
- The plaintiff spouse must file a "complaint" for divorce and summons at the courthouse in the appropriate county. You must also file a Confidential Information Sheet with your initial paperwork. This form acts like a cover sheet and gives the court important information, such as your address and telephone number.
- The plaintiff must "serve" the complaint on the defendant spouse by providing him or her with a copy. In Arkansas, you can serve the other person through sheriff's service, a private process server, or via certified mail. If you can't locate your spouse, you can also publish notice of the divorce in a local newspaper.
- The responding spouse must file a written response to the complaint within 20 days of being served with the complaint.
If you and your spouse satisfy certain conditions, you can use an interactive divorce packet provided by Arkansas Legal Services Partnership, which is a part of Arkansas Legal Aid. To use this service, you and your spouse must qualify as low-income Arkansas residents and have no minor children together.
- Duration of the marriage
- Each spouse's age, health, and lifestyle
- Occupation of each party
- Sources of income for each spouse
- Both spouses' vocational skills and employability
- Each spouse's estate, liabilities, financial needs and ability to acquire additional assets in the future
- How much each spouse contributed to the acquisition of marital assets, including contributions as a homemaker
- How the distribution of assets will impact federal income taxes
The Arkansas divorce court may decide that one spouse needs financial support from the other to meet basic living expenses. Arkansas courts award alimony based on several factors, which include:
- Duration of the marriage
- Whether the recipient spouse ever worked
- How much time has passed since the recipient last worked
- Whether the recipient has compromised his or her ability to be self-supporting due to his or her reliance on the other spouse's financial support
- Whether either spouse supported the other during the marriage while he or she pursued career training
- Whether the recipient spouse needs support to become financial independent
To set the amount and duration of support, courts also use a number of calculation models, including:
- Restitution, where spousal support is calculated based on the amount of benefits one spouse has given to the other
- Reliance, where courts calculate support based on how much one spouse has lost by relying on the other person for support
- Expectation, where spousal support is calculated by determining the paying spouse's expected standard of living while supporting the recipient spouse
- Child Support Guidelines, where the court uses the Arkansas child support guidelines, the court counts the spouse as a child and awards him or her the alimony equivalent of what child support would be
Child Custody and Support
In Arkansas, divorcing parents are required to take a parenting class. If requested, the court will also issue a temporary order to provide for the children. The temporary order will only be in effect until the judge signs the divorce decree. A typical temporary order will require that the children's lives not be disrupted by their parents' divorce. For example, the temporary order may require that the children live in the same home and attend the same school as when their parents were living together.
Arkansas divorce law considers several factors in deciding child custody. For example, the court will consider the following:
- Which parent will encourage the child to have continued contact with the other
- Whether a parent will provide the child with love, caring, and affection
- Whether there have been any instances of abuse
- The character of each parent
- Any record of criminal convictions
- Any history of drug or alcohol abuse
- The home environment of each parent
- The child's wishes
- The economic situation of each parent
- The preference of keeping the child in the same home with his or her siblings
Both parents have an obligation to provide financial support for all minor children from the marriage. The court relies upon the Arkansas Family Support Chart to determine how much a parent must pay to support his or her children.
For most people, beginning a divorce is a big step. By becoming more familiar with the divorce process in Arkansas, you can start your case with more confidence. Although relatively simple cases might not require the help of an attorney, it's usually a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable Arkansas family law attorney when you're ready to file.