If you’ve decided on a separation or divorce in Arkansas, then the divorce laws and resources below will help you make the correct decisions going forward.
The list of resources includes the ability to find family lawyers and other relevant professionals within the surrounding area. Also available are the relevant services and forms to begin the process of divorce by yourself. Additionally, you’ll also be able to find resources relating to domestic abuse, along with access to the AR child support formula – which will allow you to calculate the level of support you could be entitled to.
Find a Local Divorce Attorney - If you need a divorce lawyer in your area, this service can help you find an attorney experienced in divorce and family law.
Lawyer Referral Service from the AR Bar Association
This is a service provided by the AR Judiciary and the Arkansas Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission. You can find certified mediators, learn about Access and Visitation Mediation for divorced and divorcing parents, and more.
If divorcing parents have minor children of the marriage, the court may require them to either participate in mediation to address issues concerning the children, or to complete at least 2 hours of a parenting class which focuses on issues faced by divorced parents. Ask your attorney or contact your local court system to find out what will be required in your situation. Below are some services offering these classes:
Parenting Education for Children of Divorced Parents - The Family Service agency offers a TransParenting 4-hour seminar for divorcing parents in North Little Rock. Phone 501-372-4242.
The Better Life Counseling Center in Jonesboro offers the "Parenting Separately" Course for divorcing parents and is supported by the United Way. You can also call (870) 935-4673 to register.
Not everybody needs a lawyer to handle their divorce. If you and your spouse can work together to agree on the terms of your divorce, filing your own divorce papers is an option to consider. And using a reputable online service to complete your paperwork if often the fastest way to get it done. 3stepDivorce is one such service that not only helps you do your paperwork accurately, they also give you access to numerous reference materials which cover a wide range of divorce topics to help make sure you've addressed everything properly. If you need to save on legal costs, you can begin completing your Arkansas divorce papers online.
AR Shelters and Services - from the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence Facts and Legal information - from ArkansasLawHelp.org
If you will be filing for a divorce or have started the process, this overview of divorce laws can help serve as a guide to what you need to know about divorce in Arkansas.
If a couple files for divorce in Arkansas without properly meeting the residency requirements, their case is likely to be dismissed. Many people mistakenly believe they must divorce in the state in which they were married, however, this is not the case. Divorces are filed in the county in which either spouse lives.
In the state of Arkansas, one of the spouses must have been a resident of Arkansas for at least 60 days prior to filing for the divorce. Further, the divorce will not be finalized until a three-month waiting period has passed after the initial filing. The spouse filing for divorce should file in the county where he or she lives — unless the filing spouse is a non-resident. In this case, the divorce will be filed in the county where the defendant lives.
Arkansas is a bit different from many other states, as there are two types of marriage - regular and covenant. Only three states recognize covenant marriage — Arkansas, Arizona, and Louisiana.
Under a covenant marriage, the parties must undergo premarital counseling and if they later seek a divorce, will need to again seek authorized counseling and provide a provable reason for divorce. Divorce grounds in a covenant marriage are also stricter. The least strict of these grounds include living apart from one another for at least two years. If you have a covenant marriage and are considering, it would be wise to seek the counsel of an attorney to help with your case.
For regular marriages, the state of Arkansas remains largely a “fault” state. In order to obtain a no-fault divorce, the couple must live separate and apart (with no cohabitation or marital relations) for a period of 18 months. Otherwise, the acceptable grounds for a fault-based divorce in the state of Arkansas include:
The allegation of fault must be proven in court. As an example, should you file for divorce in the state based on cruel treatment, you might have to prove that your spouse frequently cursed you and physically abused you over the course of months or years. As you might imagine, divorces can be pretty contentious when this type of dirty laundry is aired in court. As you also might imagine, it could be fairly difficult to obtain solid proof of the “faults” listed above.
In the state of Arkansas, there is a streamlined divorce process called an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is one in which the couple agrees on virtually every issue, including asset division, child custody, alimony, and child support. Conversely, a contested divorce is one in which there is disagreement on some or all of the issues.
A no-fault, uncontested divorce requires proof that the spouses have lived separately and apart. This proof may come in the form of testimony or an affidavit from a third party who verifies the couple has lived apart for the required 18 months. If you are unable to prove you lived apart from your spouse, you could still file an uncontested divorce, using one of the faults listed above. However, both spouses must agree on the grounds to avoid having to provide proof. In other words, if both spouses agree that there was adultery in their marriage, they would not have to offer proof of the adultery.
At any time during the process, if either spouse changes his or her mind and disagrees on an issue, the divorce will be converted by the court into a contested, no-fault or fault-based divorce.
You will file your Arkansas divorce in the Chancery Court of the county where you live. If you aren't a resident of Arkansas but your spouse is, you will file in the county where your spouse lives. You will file a Complaint for Divorce which will address such issues as distribution of assets and debt, spousal support, child custody, and child support. The necessary forms will be filed in the clerk’s office, then you will be given a copy of the complaint with a notation and date stamp which acknowledges your complaint has been filed with the court.
You will also receive a “Standard Restraining Order,” which states both spouses are barred from wasting marital assets or funds and barred from harassing one another. A copy of your complaint must be served to your spouse, either through your spouse’s lawyer, by the county sheriff’s office, or via certified or registered mail. If you are unable to locate your spouse, the complaint can be served by having the court issue a warning order which is published in your local or county newspaper. It is advisable for both parties to have legal representation to ensure a fair and equitable divorce settlement.
Legal separation begins with a court order or through a written agreement between the parties. A legal separation in Arkansas is treated similarly for a “regular” marriage and a covenant marriage and is usually a prelude to divorce, but the couple is free to reconcile at any time. If you choose a legal separation, it is essential that you have a separation agreement in place which protects your rights as far as property settlement, spousal support, and child support.
Your separation agreement will influence the court in determining the final elements of a divorce decree. If you are involved in a highly contested legal separation, and you expect your divorce to be the same, it is essential that you have very specific terms writing into your legal separation agreement.
Arkansas operates under equitable division law for divorces. In an equitable division state, the marital assets are divided fairly, but not necessarily 50/50.
While some couples can agree on a division of assets on their own, others will do so with the help of an attorney or a mediator. If property issues are unable to be resolved outside of court, the issue will then be decided at trial by the judge. There are a number of factors involved in deciding what constitutes a fair division of assets, including:
The first step in the division of assets is the determination of whether the property is marital property or separate property. Marital property includes most of the assets and debts a couple has acquired during the marriage. Property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage or acquired during the marriage through a gift or an inheritance is considered separate property.
Separate property can be “converted” to marital property by commingling the asset with other marital assets. As an example, if your uncle John left you $100,000 prior to your marriage, then once you are married you put that money into your joint banking account, you have commingled the money and it is now a marital asset. Not only are assets divided fairly, but all debts accrued during the marriage (credit card debt, car loans, mortgages, etc.) must also be divided.
Alimony is money paid to one spouse by the other during the divorce and for a period of time afterward. Alimony is sometimes known as spousal support or spousal maintenance as well. When one spouse has a lucrative career while the other has focused on domestic responsibilities, the court may require the higher earner to assist the other in maintaining the same level of lifestyle as the couple had during the marriage for a period of time.
Temporary spousal support is often awarded during the divorce, sometimes referred to as alimony “pendente lite.” In shorter marriages, the state of Arkansas considers alimony as rehabilitative - that is, a temporary arrangement which allows the lower-earning spouse to obtain employment or to engage in training or education to improve employment prospects. If one spouse supported the family while the other obtained a higher educational degree to increase earning potential, then the other spouse might receive alimony for a period of time in order to do the same.
Permanent alimony is rarely awarded except for those spouses who have extremely poor employment prospects because of age or ill-health. In order to award alimony, the court must find that one spouse has financial need, and the other has the ability to pay. The factors necessary to make this determination include:
There is no specific “formula” for determining whether alimony should be awarded or not, and if so how much. But the state has generally agreed that an award of 20 percent of the higher-earning spouse’s net take-home pay is appropriate temporary spousal support for the dependent spouse who is also the custodial parent. All relevant factors must be considered prior to awarding alimony in an Arkansas divorce, however, the judge has significant discretion in making this decision.
If there is no agreement stating otherwise, alimony terminates automatically when the receiving spouse remarries, or when the receiving spouse enters into a relationship and has a child with someone other than the paying spouse.
There have been many changes in child custody laws throughout the last few decades. There are multiple types of custody allowed in the state of Arkansas, including physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the daily care and responsibilities for the child—where the child lives as well as food and clothing for the child. Legal custody refers to decision-making responsibilities for the child regarding religion, discipline, health, and education.
Sole or joint custody must be applied to physical and legal custody. As an example, both parents could share legal custody, while one parent has sole physical custody, and the other has visitation rights.
If the parents are able to reach a child custody agreement on their own, they must submit a parenting plan to the court which includes details regarding how custody time will be split, how financial expenses for the children will be split, and all other factors regarding shared custody. If the parents are unable to come to their own agreement regarding custody, the court will base custody on the best interests of the child. Arkansas child custody laws are presumed to give equal opportunity to each parent, regardless of gender.
The exception to this is when a child is born to an unmarried woman in the state of Arkansas. In this instance, legal custody of the child is given to the mother until the child reaches the age of 18. The biological father can petition for custody and visitation rights once paternity is established.
Both parents are required to support their children. While the parents can enter into their own agreement regarding child support, such an agreement must meet the minimum guidelines set by law and must receive approval from the court.
Both parents are required to submit an Affidavit of Financial means, which includes all sources of income. There are allowable deductions under state law, including state and federal income taxes withheld, F.I.C.A. or Railroad retirement, health insurance premiums as required for your case, and court-ordered child support for children from a previous relationship. Once the income of both parents is determined, then Arkansas child support charts will be used to determine the amount to be paid by the non-custodial parent.
Health care coverage is also factored in if it is available at a reasonable cost; if so, the costs are generally shared by the parents. Occasionally a parent may decide to quit his or her job in order to avoid child support obligations. If the court believes a parent has deliberately quit a job or is deliberately avoiding finding employment, the court will impute an amount to that parent (the court will attribute income that the parent could reasonably be earning to the parent) and base child support on that amount.
A judge can make adjustments to the amount of child support determined by the Arkansas child support charts when the parents have almost equal joint custody, or when the non-custodial parent has extended visitation beyond “traditional” arrangements.
Since same-sex marriages were legalized across the nation in 2015, you might presume that same-sex divorce would be exactly the same as divorce between a husband and wife. Despite the legalization of same-sex marriage, there have been some hurdles for same-sex couples in the state of Arkansas. As an example, the state of Arkansas prohibited the distribution of birth certificates to children of same-sex parents at one time.
In theory, a same-sex divorce will proceed in the same way as other divorces in the state, with the same residency requirements and the same factors used in asset division and alimony. In reality, however, the couple may have married in a state where same-sex marriage was legal long before 2015, which creates certain issues when determining the length of the marriage. There may also be issues associated with child custody if one of the spouses in the same-sex marriage never formally adopted the child born to the other.
It is crucial to have an Arkansas attorney who is well-versed in Arkansas divorce laws regarding same-sex couples to ensure an equitable division of assets and an equally equitable child custody arrangement.
Complete Arkansas Code and Statutes