Arkansas Divorce Laws, Resources, Information | Cordell & Cordell

Arkansas

What are the grounds for divorce in Arkansas?

Arkansas is a fault state for divorce. This means whoever files for divorce must show that he/she has grounds or reasons to get a divorce from the other person. The grounds for divorce in Arkansas are the following:

  • Impotence;
  • The other spouse was convicted of a felony;
  • Habitual drunkenness;
  • Cruel and barbarous treatment;
  • Adultery;
  • General indignities;
  • Lived separate and apart for eighteen 18 continuous months;
  • Lived separate and apart for three years due to spouse’s incurable insanity and the spouse has been committed to a mental health facility;
  • Lack of support—when the spouse has a legal obligation to support you and the ability but does not.

The most commonly used ground for divorce in Arkansas is general indignities. This means that your spouse has made your life so intolerable that you can no longer stand to be married to him or her. You will have to show that the grounds occurred in the state of Arkansas within the last five years before filing your Complaint for Divorce.

What is a divorce going to cost me in Arkansas? Can I afford it?

The cost of a divorce can vary. Much of the cost depends on the other side — how much he/she is wanting to contest the divorce and how reasonable are her/his expectations.

In most counties to file a Complaint for Divorce — which is your document telling the court why you are wanting a divorce and what else you want the court to order you (i.e. custody, support) — the filing fee is $165. This is something the clerk charges. Some counties charge a bit more if they are a county that uses electronic filing.

Do I really need to hire an Arkansas divorce attorney?

If you and your spouse do not have any property (no land, houses, personal property of any real value, no retirement) or children, then you may be able to do a pro se divorce or a divorce on your own. The clerk in your county may have paperwork to use or you be able to get the paperwork you need from Legal Aid of Arkansas or their website.

However, if you have children and property, especially a home or retirement, then you will want to at least speak with an attorney and likely have an attorney look over paperwork.

Divorces with these issues can become complex and you will want to make sure language is included in your decree to protect your interests and rights now and moving forward.

Does Arkansas grant divorces based on marital fault?

Yes, in Arkansas in order to get a divorce, you will have to prove to the court that your spouse did something to you. The only way to get a divorce in Arkansas and not show fault is for you and your spouse to live separate and apart for 18 continuous months.

Can I get maintenance or will I have to provide maintenance to my spouse?

When determining spousal support in Arkansas, the primary factor the courts will look at is whether one person can afford to pay spousal support to the other, and whether the person requesting the spousal support needs it. The court will consider the other following factors:

  • The assets of both parties;
  • The ability to obtain future employment;
  • The life situation of both parties during the marriage;
  • The parties standard of living during the marriage;
  • Medical needs of either party; and
  • Duration of marriage.

Unless otherwise ordered by the court or agreed to by the parties, spousal support will automatically terminate when the party receiving spousal support remarries, has a child which results in that person receiving or paying child support, or the party living full time with another person, the death of one of the parties, or another condition set forth by the court. Ark. Code Ann. §9-12-312.

Can I change my name at the time of divorce?

If you want to change your name, you will need to make this request in your Complaint for Divorce, which is the document that tells the court you want a divorce and why, and informs the court what else you are wanting. In the divorce decree or order, the court can add a provision reinstating you to your previous name.

When can I file for divorce in Arkansas?

In order to file for a divorce in Arkansas, you must be a resident of Arkansas for at least 60 days before you file your Complaint for Divorce. You will have to continue to be a resident of Arkansas for 30 days after you file your Complaint.

When is my case going to be over?

This depends. There is a 30-day waiting period in Arkansas. This means that the judge must wait 30 days from when you file your Complaint for Divorce to grant your divorce. Therefore, you will have to wait at minimum of 30 days. The length of your case can depend on a variety of factors, including how busy the court’s docket is, the expectations of the other and how much he/she is contesting.

Do I have to go to court?

Most likely you will have to go to court, but it depends.

If you and your spouse agree on all terms of your divorce, then your divorce will be “uncontested.” Even if your divorce is uncontested, the judge may want you to come to a hearing to verify for the court that you have been a resident of Arkansas for at least 90 days — 60 days before you filed and 30 after you filed — and why you want a divorce.

You will need to bring a witness with you who can verify that you have been a resident of Arkansas for at least 90 days and who also has knowledge that you and your spouse have been living separate and apart since the date of your separation as listed in your Complaint for Divorce. Your witness will also likely need to verify for the court that he/she has firsthand knowledge as to the reason why you want a divorce.

Some judges will allow you to do the verification for you and your witness by affidavit; however, this depends on the judge. For the most part, the judge will expect you to go to court to finalize the divorce. A hearing as described above, is very short, lasting about 10 minutes long. If your spouse has signed the divorce decree, therefore, making this an uncontested divorce then she/he will not have to go to court either.

If attempts to serve my spouse do not work, what is my next step?

You will have to show the court that you have made “diligent attempts” to serve your spouse. Diligent attempts means that you have sent the divorce papers to the last known place your spouse was living. You will need to send the papers by certified mail, restricted delivery with return receipt requested or have a process server go to your spouse’s last known place of residence to attempt service.

Once you have made these attempts, you can file a petition for a warning order with the court. A warning order is essentially a publication in the newspaper in the county where you filed your divorce complaint.

At what point during the process can a spouse remarry or start dating?

Once the court finalizes your divorce, you or your spouse can remarry or start dating. Because Arkansas is a fault state for divorce, dating before the divorce is finalized can give the other side grounds for divorce.

What if my spouse does not want the divorce?

Arkansas is a fault state for divorce. This means you will have to show that your spouse did something to you in order to get a divorce. The only way to get a divorce from your spouse without showing fault is to live separate and apart from your spouse for at least 18 continuous months.

Your spouse can contest or object to you getting a divorce. However, as long as you can prove fault or prove that you and your spouse have been living separate and apart for at least 18 months, then the court will grant your divorce. You will have to be prepared to put on proof of fault or 18 months of separation. You can do this through witnesses or documentary evidence.

Do the other issues – support, custody, alimony, and property – have to be decided before the divorce is final?

If you and your spouse have come to an agreement on all of these issues before the final divorce hearing or before the judge signs your divorce decree, then this makes your divorce easier and more cost-effective for you.

However, if you and your spouse cannot agree on any terms or if there are some terms that you disagree on, then you can have a final hearing in front of the judge. The judge will hearing each side’s story and what he and she wants before making a decision.

How long do I have to live in Arkansas to obtain a divorce?

You have to be a resident of Arkansas, in the county where you file, at least 60 days before you file your divorce Complaint.

After I file for divorce, do I have to continue to live in Arkansas?

After you file for divorce, you will have to live in Arkansas for at least 30 days.

What if I am in the military and out of state?

If you are in the military, the residency requirements still apply to you. However, when you or your spouse files for divorce, whoever files needs to disclose if anyone is active military.

The reason for this is in case someone does not respond to the Complaint for Divorce. The court will then know it is not necessarily because the military person is just not responding, it could be because he/she is deployed.

What forms do I need to file a divorce in Arkansas?

To file for divorce in Arkansas, you will first need a Complaint for Divorce or a Petition. This is your document which tells the court that you want a divorce and why. It also tells the court what else you want (i.e. custody).

You will also need a Summons, which tells your spouse that you have filed a legal action against him or her. The Clerk can issue the summons. The Summons, additionally, tells your spouse how long he/she has to answer your Complaint for Divorce.

You will also need to file a Domestic Relations Cover Sheet, which you complete with all of your and your spouse’s personal information. This sheet is kept separately in the Clerk’s office and it is not filed as a public record.

If children are involved in the divorce, you will also have to file a Confidential Information Sheet, which also asks for the parties’ personal information, as well as the children’s information. Like the Cover Sheet, the Clerk will keep this sheet separately and not file it with the Complaint for Divorce.

How and where is a divorce complaint filed in Arkansas?

You file the Complaint for Divorce in the county where you live. You file the Complaint by going to the Clerk’s office in the county in which you live.

How do I serve the divorce complaint on my spouse in Arkansas? How long do I have to wait to receive my divorce?

There are three ways to serve your spouse in Arkansas: (1) by certified mail, restricted delivery with return receipt requested; (2) by using the sheriff’s office; or (3) by a process server.

If using certified mail, you will have to file an Affidavit stating when you served your spouse, along with the “green card” once it comes back to you. If using the sheriff deputy or a process server, he or she will have to sign a proof of service form which is attached to the Summons stating when and where he/she served your spouse.

If you are served with a Complaint for Divorce, then you have 30 days to file an Answer, which is a written response to the Complaint. If you or your spouse is incarcerated when served with the Complaint for divorce, then you or your spouse has 60 days to file an Answer.

You or your spouse will file the Answer with the Clerk. It is very important to make sure you file your Answer by your deadline. If not, the court may consider you to be in “default” and grant whatever it is your spouse is asking for in her/his Complaint for Divorce.

How is a divorce granted in Arkansas? Will I have to go to court?

There is a 30-day waiting period in Arkansas. This means that the judge must wait 30 days from when you file your Complaint for Divorce to grant your divorce. Therefore, you will have to wait at minimum of 30 days.

The length of your case can depend on a variety of factors, including how busy the court’s docket is, the expectations of the other and how much he/she is contesting. Once the waiting period is over, the judge will decide if you have met the requirements in Arkansas for a divorce (residency, grounds)

Most likely, you will have to go to court but it depends. If you and your spouse agree on all terms of your divorce, then your divorce will be “uncontested.”

Even if your divorce is uncontested, the judge may want you to come to a hearing to verify for the court that you have been a resident of Arkansas for at least 90 days — 60 days before you filed and 30 after you filed — and why you want a divorce.

You will need to bring a witness with you who can verify that you have been a resident of Arkansas for at least 90 days and who also has knowledge that you and your spouse have been living separate and apart since the date of your separation as listed in your Complaint for Divorce.

Your witness will also likely need to verify for the court that he/she has firsthand knowledge as to the reason why you want a divorce. Some judges will allow you to do the verification for you and your witness by affidavit; however, this depends on the judge.

For the most part, the judge will expect you to go to court to finalize the divorce. A hearing as described above, is very short, lasting about 10 minutes long. If your spouse has signed the divorce decree, therefore, making this an uncontested divorce then she/he will not have to go to court either.

What typically happens if I go to court to obtain my divorce myself?

If your divorce is “contested,” meaning you and your spouse do not agree on all or some of the issues, then you will represent yourself in the matter as if you were an attorney.

You will be able to tell the court your side of the story and what you want. You will also have the opportunity to question any of your spouse’s witnesses. You will also be able to present any witnesses or other evidence you have supporting your side.

However, even though you are not an attorney, the court will expect you to follow the rules of the court and of law.

If you and your spouse agree on all terms of your divorce, then your divorce will be “uncontested.” Even if your divorce is uncontested, the judge will still likely want you to come to a hearing to verify for the court that you have been a resident of Arkansas for at least 90 days — 60 days before you filed and 30 after you filed — and why you want a divorce.

You will need to bring a witness with you who can verify that you have been a resident of Arkansas for at least 90 days and who also has knowledge that you and your spouse have been living separate and apart since the date of your separation as listed in your Complaint for Divorce.

Your witness will also likely need to verify for the court that he/she has firsthand knowledge as to the reason why you want a divorce. A hearing like this, is very short, lasting about 10 minutes long. If your spouse has signed the divorce decree, therefore, making this an uncontested divorce then she/he will not have to go to court either.

How do I prove fault for divorce?

You will have to show that your spouse did something to you in order to get a divorce. The only way to get a divorce from your spouse without showing fault is to live separate and apart from your spouse for at least 18 continuous months.

Your spouse can contest or object to you getting a divorce. However, as long as you can prove fault or prove that you and your spouse have been living separate and apart for at least 18 months, then the court will grant your divorce. You will have to be prepared to put on proof of fault or 18 months of separation. You can do this through witnesses or documentary evidence.

You can show fault by bringing witnesses with you who have firsthand knowledge that your spouse did something to you based on whatever ground you are pleading.

For example, if your ground is “general indignities” that you will want to bring a witness with you who can testify that he or she saw your husband or wife treat you saw intolerably.

At any time can a parent change a minor child’s last name without the other parent’s permission?

A parent will typically need consent from the other parent to change the child’s name. If the parent can show a number of factors, including best interest of the child and stigma attached to the child’s current name, then the court may change the child’s name.

Additionally, you request in your Complaint for Divorce that you want your child’s name to be changed and then your spouse never responds to the Complaint, then the court may consider your spouse to be in “default” for not timely answering. Not all judges do this if custody and/or property are involved. However, if you request the name change and your spouse does not respond then the court may grant the request.

Can a couple become legally married by living together as man and wife under the state’s laws (common law marriage)?

No, common law marriage is not recognized in Arkansas.