Filing a divorce in Arkansas is similar to getting a divorce in any other state in the USA. Like in other states, it accomplishes severing marital ties, dividing debts and assets, alimony, and, for children, visitation, custody, and support.
But divorce isn’t as easy as it sounds. It comes with a lot of complications for the persons involved in the divorce. If you are one such unfortunate couple planning to apply for divorce, it can be a big blow to you. To help lessen the impact, we will provide you with all the necessary information regarding filing a divorce in Arkansas.
What are the basic requirements for filing a divorce?
Before you apply for a divorce in the state of Arkansas, it would be helpful to learn about the basic process beforehand. Your state laws might be slightly different from others, but the basic requirements for filing a divorce are similar. Let us go through the criteria for filing a divorce in Arkansas first.
- Residency – Either you and your spouse must be a resident in Arkansas for a minimum of two months before you apply for divorce.
- Separation Period – Filing a no-fault divorce in Arkansas, a couple must voluntarily live separately without cohabitation for a minimum of 18 months. However, if there is any cohabitation or sexual relations between the spouses during the separation period, the 18-month waiting period will start over.
Where to file the divorce?
If you are an Arkansas resident and want to apply for divorce, you will have to file in the Chancery Court of your respective county. If your spouse also resides in Arkansas, but you don’t, then you will have to file the divorce in the county where your spouse lives. The papers can be submitted online or in-person at the respective county court.
How do you start filing?
The first step is filing a divorce complaint. If your divorce is an uncontested one, then you and your spouse can simply reach an agreement on property division, child custody, and alimony if it is applicable. When you and your spouse have an agreement in place, it can reduce the process down to a single court hearing. The Judge will make sure that you understand all the terms and agree to them by asking a few questions before entering a Divorce Decree.
But if the divorce is contested and there are unresolved disputes, the case gets more complicated and can involve several hearings.
Terms of an uncontested divorce
By uncontested divorce, we mean divorce cases where both spouses have agreed on the divorce grounds and all terms of the divorce.
In uncontested divorces, both parties work together to file the divorce paperwork and complete it. In particular, they work together to prepare and complete the Divorce Settlement Agreement. This agreement includes all the marriage issues, such as debt division, property division, child support and custody, visitation, alimony, and others.
Then as mentioned before, the hearing in court will start. The court might choose to grant the divorce without a formal hearing in some divorce cases. One must also comprehend the fact that the court can reject all provisions stated in the agreement. This happens when the Judge feels the terms do not support an equitable distribution of all assets and debts or do not meet a child’s best interests.
How to properly prepare your divorce forms?
The entire divorce process starts with preparing your application for divorce. There are several options on how to do this. Couples can do it themselves after obtaining the forms for free from the court, pay an attorney to handle the paperwork, or use online services.
A DIY divorce can be too complicated while hiring an attorney can be too expensive. Therefore, online divorce services can be the perfect option. There are many reliable online services ready to prepare your divorce documents quickly at a very affordable price.
Filling out all those forms is a significant step, and one must ensure they do it properly.
Next, the forms have to be submitted to the court. Filing them in the correct county is very paramount. As mentioned before, you have to file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse resides. And one of you has to be a resident of the state for at least two months before you can apply for a divorce.
The first form you will have to deal with is the “Complaint about Divorce” form. Remember, if you are filing the divorce, you are the plaintiff, and your spouse is the defendant.
The complaint must state that one of the spouses is a resident of Arkansas for a minimum of 60 days and also contain the legal grounds for divorce. The most common ground for an uncontested divorce is the no-fault options of separation for 18 months. But there are also some fault-based grounds to choose from:
- Felony conviction
- Felony conviction
- Habitual drunkard
- Irreconcilable differences
- Cruel treatment
- Financial abandonment
If a fault-based ground is used, it will require the filing spouse to present evidence in court to prove the other spouse’s fault. This will require hiring an attorney and additional court visits, which will significantly drive up the cost of divorce.
Any issues that you want the court to handle must be included in the complaint, including child custody, support, and even alimony. If you and your spouse agree on all the divorce issues, you can go ahead with an uncontested divorce. It minimizes all the court intervention and brings down the hassles a contested divorce brings to the table. You might have to prepare and sign a property settlement agreement and state that all your issues have been resolved and request the court to accept it.
Division of property and debts in Arkansas
The dissolution of marriage would be associated with property division and debts. If you cannot agree on property division on your own, the Judge must decide the matter.
In Arkansas, only marital property is split in a divorce. Separate property will remain with the original owner. This includes:
- Property acquired as a gift or inheritance;
- Property acquired before getting married;
- Property designated as non-marital via written agreement;
- Property acquired against other non-marital property.
All other properties which are considered marital property are divided equally. When determining an equitable division of property, a Judge will consider several factors.
- Source and amount of income
- Vocational skills
- Length of marriage
- Marital misconduct
- Federal IT conditions
How to handle child custody?
The issue of child custody will arise if you and your spouse have any minor children. As per Arkansas law, the Judge will determine child custody according to the welfare of a child. The best interest of the child will be paramount, and the sex of the parent will not serve as a factor in deciding child custody. If the child is of sufficient age and mental capacity, their choice might also be regarded.
Usually, one parent is offered physical custody (known as the custodial parent), and the other is provided with visitation rights. The children then live mostly with the custodial parent, who makes decisions on their daily care. The non-custodial parent can avail of limited visitations during allotted time slots.
It is encouraged that both parents remain active in a child’s life after divorce. Therefore, both parents can be involved in medical care and significant decisions about the child’s upbringing, known as joint legal custody.
How will alimony be decided?
The Judge will decide aspects of alimony as per the Arkansas alimony law. The law dictates that alimony may be awarded to either party considering both parties’ circumstances and the nature of the case. While deciding alimony, fault can become a crucial factor. The period of alimony can be limited as well as indefinite, in installments or lump sum amount.
Filing a divorce in Arkansas can prove to be hard on both your mental and physical health. But even more so when you do not know how to proceed when faced with one. The above guidelines will serve as crucial information and make the entire process of divorce easier for you and your family.