The rules governing divorce vary greatly from state to state, and you generally must file for divorce in the state where you and your spouse live. As such, if you’re considering a divorce in Arkansas, it’s important to know the state-specific rules for divorce
How Much Does it Cost to File for Divorce in Arkansas?
The cost of filing a petition for divorce in Arkansas is around $150, although fees may vary from county to county. You’ll have to check with your local court for more precise and up-to-date information.
Additional fees include approximately $25 to serve (deliver) the formal divorce petition on your spouse, and “filing fees” each time you submit additional applications or motions (legal paperwork) to the court in your divorce case.
However, the above-mentioned costs refer only to basic court fees. If you have to hire an attorney or any experts (eg., tax advisors, financial planners, or property appraisers), and/or if your divorce is complicated or contested, then you’ll be looking at much higher costs.
Is There a Residency Requirement?
Yes. You must live in the state of Arkansas for at least 60 days before you can file for a divorce there.
Do I Need Grounds for Divorce in Arkansas?
Yes. When you file for divorce, you do have to identify a “ground” (reason) on the divorce petition. However, it doesn't need to be some specific, wrongful act or behavior that led to the divorce. Although Arkansas recognizes “fault” divorces, it also allows couples to get divorced based on the ground of separation.
What are the Fault Grounds in Arkansas?
In a “fault divorce,” you allege that your spouse did something that led to the divorce – in other words, your spouse is at “fault” for the breakup of the marriage. Arkansas recognizes the following fault grounds:
- a felony conviction
- alcohol abuse for at least one year
- cruel treatment that endangers the other spouse’s life
- behavior which results in intolerable humiliation, embarrassment, or shame to the other spouse
- incurable insanity, and
- willful failure to support the other spouse despite a legal obligation to do so.
For a complete description of the fault grounds in Arkansas, see the relevant law at A.C.A. § 9-12-301.
A fault divorce requires proof (in the form of reliable evidence that can be submitted to a court) of at least one of the fault grounds. If you are on either side of a fault divorce in Arkansas, you should contact an experienced family law attorney for help.
What are the Requirements for a Divorce Based on Separation?
In Arkansas, the only way to avoid a fault divorce is to prove that you and your spouse have lived separately for 18 months, with no cohabitation during that time. There is no consent required; a judge will grant a divorce based on an 18-month separation whether one spouse left unilaterally, or the spouses agreed to separate. However, if there is any cohabitation or marital relations during the separation, the 18-month waiting period will begin again.
How is the Division of Marital Property Handled in Arkansas?
Marital property must be divided or distributed in a divorce. Arkansas is an equitable distribution state, so courts will divide property in a just and fair manner, but not necessarily equally (in half). If spouses can’t agree on the amount of a property settlement, then the court will determine the total value of the marital property and divide it equitably between the spouses.
How are Retirement Assets Divided?
Retirement accounts are a form of property. The amount of a retirement plan that was accrued during the marriage will be split equitably between the spouses. However, there are federal laws governing the withdrawal of retirement funds, which may preclude the account from being cashed-out and divided immediately. In this case, you may want to negotiate a lump-sum buyout of your interest in the retirement plan.
In addition, depending on the type of plan to be divided, you may have to obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) – a special court order that tells the plan administrator how and when to divide the plan. This is a very complicated area of the law, so you should contact an experienced family law attorney to prepare any QDROs necessary.
What are the Child Support Guidelines in Arkansas?
The amount of child support owed in the state of Arkansas is calculated as a percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent. The percentage is dictated by the number of children and other relevant factors.
For a complete description of how child support is calculated in Arkansas, see Child Support in Arkansas, by Susan Bishop.
Can I Request Spousal Support or Alimony?
Yes. In Arkansas, alimony is called spousal maintenance and, unlike child support, it’s decided on a case-by-case basis: not on pre-set guidelines.
Alimony is generally awarded when one spouse earns (or is able to earn) a lot more than the other and when the lower-earning spouse requires alimony to continue the “marital standard of living” (a life style similar to that enjoyed during the marriage).
Can I Get Temporary Support during the Divorce?
Yes. Temporary alimony (also called pendente lite support) is support that’s paid during the divorce and until a permanent support order is entered at the conclusion of the divorce. Temporary support may be available if the requesting spouse can show a need for such support while the divorce is pending.
For a complete description of temporary support and other types of alimony in Arkansas, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Arkansas, by Susan Bishop.
How Long Does a Divorce Take in Arkansas?
There is a three-month waiting period in Arkansas before the divorce will become final. This is the minimum waiting time. If you litigate issues during a divorce, the process of resolving those issues can take months or even years.
Getting Legal Help
If you are pursuing a divorce in Arkansas, you should consider calling a lawyer. Your attorney can guide you through all aspects of the divorce and help ensure that your rights are protected as you go through the difficult process of ending your marriage.