The divorce process can often seem overwhelming. Not only do you have to deal with the emotional and practical changes that come with ending a marriage, but you also have to navigate the legal system. And then there are the money worries that are almost always in the picture. But you can find answers to your questions about divorce laws in Arkansas, as well as the help you need.
In order to get an Arkansas divorce, either you or your spouse must have resided in the state for at least 60 days just before you file the initial divorce papers and for three full months by the time the judge signs the final divorce judgment. You'll have to provide corroborating evidence to prove that you meet these residency requirements.
Usually, corroboration entails having someone familiar with your residency status testify in court. But if your case is uncontested (more on that below), the court allows corroboration by affidavit (sworn written statement), rather than a personal appearance.
(Learn more about how to file for divorce in Arkansas.)
Note that gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights in divorce as opposite sex couples. But same-sex divorce sometimes involves extra complications, particularly for couples who lived together before same-sex marriage was legal.
Arkansas allows both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorces. In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse blames the other for causing their breakup. Unlike many states, however, Arkansas doesn't allow you to get a no-fault divorce based simply on incompatibility or the breakdown of your marriage relationship. Instead, you and your spouse must have lived separate and apart (without sexual relations) for a minimum of 18 continuous months before you can get a no-fault divorce. And you'll have to provide corroborating evidence to prove that you were separated that long.
With a fault-based divorce, one spouse claims that the other's actions led to the failure of the marriage. The fault-based reasons (or "grounds") for divorce in Arkansas include adultery, habitual drunkenness, and "indignities" that make the other spouse's life "intolerable." Usually, fault-based divorces have the potential for being more contentious and difficult. That's because one spouse needs to prove the misconduct—often over the other spouse's denials. But in Arkansas, you don't need corroborating proof of the fault grounds for divorce if the accused spouse signs an explicit, written waiver, or if your divorce is uncontested (as discussed below),
As discussed above, you must have been separated from your spouse for at least 18 months before you may file for a no-fault divorce in Arkansas. There's no pre-divorce separation requirement if you're filing for a fault-based divorce.
You'll need to pay a fee to file your "Divorce Complaint" (the document that starts the divorce process) with the court. As of September 2022, the fee filing fee in Arkansas is $165, but that amount is subject to change. So check the Arkansas Judiciary's filing fee schedule in advance. If you can't afford to pay the court fees, you can ask the judge to waive them by filing a "Petition For Leave To Proceed In Forma Pauperis" and a "Supporting Affidavit."
Beyond the filing fee, the cost of divorce will depend on the specifics of your case, especially:
Yes, you and your spouse may agree about how to handle the issues in your divorce at any point during the process, from before you've filed the divorce papers right up to just before a trial. In fact, courts strongly encourage settlements.
The courts will consider your case to be uncontested if you've reached an agreement about all of the issues involved in ending your marriage, including the division of your property, alimony, child custody, and child support (more on those issues below). Normally, you'll put the details in a written marital settlement agreement, which you'll submit to the court for a judge's approval.
If you aren't able to agree with your spouse about one or more of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the disputes for you. Any time you need a trial, your divorce will take longer and cost more. So if at all possible, it's in your best interest to do everything you can to come to a settlement agreement that's fair to both you and your spouse.
From the date you file the divorce complaint, there's a mandatory 30-day waiting period before an Arkansas judge may grant your final divorce. This applies even if you've filed for an uncontested divorce.
Typically, it will take longer than 30 days to finalize your divorce. As with cost, the actual amount of time it will take depends on the circumstances in your case and any court backlogs. When you have an uncontested divorce, some judges will allow you to get a divorce "by affidavit," which should save time by avoiding a final hearing. You should call the judge's or court clerk's office to find out if that policy will apply to your case.
If your divorce is contested, you'll have to go through a number of legal steps that can add several months to the process. And if you and your spouse aren't able to reach a settlement agreement at some point, going to trial will require even more time—usually more than a year. Court backlogs can also make the entire process take longer.
Courts in Arkansas distribute marital property based on the theory of "equitable distribution." This means judges will divide property based on what they believe is fair under the circumstances of each case.
Attributing a value to each asset is usually pretty straightforward. But dividing some property can be tricky at times. You'll often see this with a family-owned business, where you may need the input of a forensic accountant. Another example is splitting retirement accounts, which usually requires hiring an expert.
All decisions about the legal and physical custody of children in Arkansas must be based on what would be in the children's best interests.
Judges will consider several factors when they make custody decisions (or when they decide whether to approve the parents' agreement on that issue). Those factors include, but aren't limited to:
Judges will also take into account the custody preferences of children, if they're of a sufficient age and mental capacity to reason, regardless of chronological age. As a general rule, the older a child is, the better the chance that a judge will take that child's wishes into account.
Like all states in the U.S., Arkansas has guidelines that include detailed rules for deciding who must pay child support and how much those payments should be. Learn how child support is calculated in Arkansas, including when support amounts may depart from the guidelines.
In determining whether to award alimony in an Arkansas divorce, as well as the amount and duration, the court will consider a list of factors, including:
Temporary ("pendente lite") alimony is available while the divorce is in progress, if the judge believes it's warranted.
If you want to get an annulment, you'll need to convince a judge that you meet one of the narrow grounds for voiding a marriage. (Ark. Code § 9-12-201 (2022).)
Learn more about annulment in Arkansas, including the allowable reasons, the legal process, and the effects of annulling a marriage.
You can find answers to other divorce-related questions in our section on divorce in Arkansas.
Here are some other resources: