Divorce in Arkansas

Learn about Arkansas divorce laws and get answers to common questions.

By , Attorney

Arkansas' divorce laws are different than the laws of nearby states. If you want to get 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?

You'll need to pay a filing fee of approximately $165 when you file a petition for divorce in Arkansas, although fees may vary from county to county. You should check with your local court for the most up-to-date information. There are additional divorce fees such as a notary fee of $10 or service fees up to $50 for a process server or sheriff to serve (deliver) the formal divorce petition on your spouse. Additionally, each time you submit additional motions or legal paperwork to the court, you may have to pay additional filing fees.

However, the above-mentioned costs refer only to basic court fees. If you have to hire an attorney or any experts such as tax advisors, financial planners, or property appraisers, and/or if your divorce is complicated or contested, then you'll have even higher costs.

Does Arkansas Have a Residency Requirement?

Yes. Arkansas divorce laws require you to live in the state of Arkansas for at least 60 days before you can file for a divorce. Either spouse can meet the residency requirement. This means if your spouse has lived in Arkansas for at least 60 days but you haven't, you can still file your case in the state.

Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Arkansas?

No, it doesn't matter who files for divorce first. In either situation, you'll have the chance to deny your spouse's claims and make your own requests as part of the divorce. The spouse filing for divorce will have to state a "ground," or reason, for the divorce.

You can seek a fault or no-fault divorce in Arkansas. In a no-fault divorce petition you can state that you and your spouse don't get along without giving a specific reason for the divorce. Although Arkansas recognizes "fault" divorces, Arkansas divorce laws also allow couples to get divorced based on the no-fault grounds of separation.

What Are Fault Grounds for Divorce in Arkansas?

In a "fault divorce," you are alleging that your spouse did something that led to the divorce—in other words, your spouse is at "fault" for the breakup of the marriage. You can file for a fault-based divorce in Arkansas based on the following fault grounds:

  • impotence
  • 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
  • adultery
  • incurable insanity, and
  • willful failure to support the other spouse despite a legal obligation to do so. See Ark. Code § 9-12-301(2020).

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're on either side of a fault divorce in Arkansas, you may want to contact an experienced family law attorney for help.

What Are the Requirements for a Divorce Based on Separation?

Divorcing couples often ask, "Is Arkansas a no fault divorce state?" The answer is,"yes." You can obtain a no-fault divorce in Arkansas based on separation. You and your spouse must have lived separately for 18 months, with no cohabitation during that time.

In a divorce based on separation, no consent is required. This means that a judge will grant a divorce based on an 18-month separation whether or not both spouses agreed to separate. However, if there is any cohabitation or sexual relations between the spouses during the separation period, the 18-month waiting period will start over.

How Will a Judge Divide Marital Property in Arkansas?

Arkansas is an equitable distribution state, which means that a judge will divide marital property fairly, but not necessarily equally. Spouses can reach their property settlement agreements on their own or with a mediator's help. When spouses can't agree on how to divide property, a judge will calculate the total value of marital property and divide it between the spouses based on their individual needs, income, childcare responsibilities, separate property, and any other relevant factor.

How Are Retirement Assets Divided?

Retirement accounts are a form of property. Any part of a spouse's retirement plan that was accrued during marriage will be split equitably between the spouses in a divorce. Depending on the type of retirement plan to be divided, you may have to get a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) – a special court order that tells the plan administrator how and when to divide the retirement plan. This is a very complicated area of the law, so you should contact an experienced family law attorney to prepare any QDROs in your case.

What Are Arkansas' Child Support Guidelines?

In 2020, Arkansas revised its state child support guidelines. Under these guidelines, each parent's share of child support is equal to that parent's pro-rata portion of the parents' combined income. For example if Parent A makes $2,000 per month and Parent B makes $1,000 per month, their combined income is $3,000 a month and Parent A will pay 66.66% of child support and Parent B will pay 33.33% of child support. The Arkansas child support obligation for one child based on a combined income of $3,000 is equal to $469 per month. Under this scenario, Parent A would be responsible for $312.67 in child support each month and Parent B would have to pay $156.33.

Note that usually only one parent is ordered to pay child support (called the "obligor parent"). The parent who receives child support payments (called the "recipient parent") usually lives with the child and the law assumes that the recipient parent pays support by spending directly on the child.

Can I Request Spousal Support or Alimony?

Yes. In Arkansas, alimony is called spousal maintenance and it's decided on a case-by-case basis. A judge won't award alimony in every divorce case. Spousal maintenance is generally awarded when one spouse has a financial need and the other spouse has the ability to pay spousal maintenance. A judge will look at each spouse's income, job history, employment potential, education, and the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Alimony is usually awarded when one spouse earns a lot more than the other and alimony payments would allow the lower-earning spouse to continue the "marital standard of living."

Can I Get Temporary Support During My Divorce?

Yes. Temporary alimony (also called pendente lite support) is support that's paid during the divorce until a permanent spousal maintenance order is entered. Temporary support may be available if the requesting spouse can show a need for financial support while the divorce is pending.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Arkansas?

There's a three-month waiting period in Arkansas before your divorce will become final, unless you and your spouse have been separated for 12 months. This means even if you and your spouse agree on all terms of the divorce, a judge won't issue a final divorce order until three months have passed since you filed your case. See Ark. Code § 9-12-310 (2020). In cases where the couple has been separated for a year, a judge can waive the three-month waiting period. Keep in mind this is the minimum waiting time. If you litigate issues during a divorce, the divorce may drag on for months or even years.

Can You Get a Divorce While Pregnant in Arkansas?

The answer is generally, yes, but a judge may wait until the baby is born to grant your divorce. When you file your case, you'll need to state how many children you and your spouse have together and if any other children are expected (such as through pregnancy). Depending on how far the pregnancy has progressed and each spouse's circumstances, a judge will decide whether to grant or delay your divorce.

What Is the Cost of Divorce in Arkansas?

The price of your divorce will depend on your family's unique circumstances. For example, couples who settle their divorces quickly will have minimal costs and can get divorced quickly. However, if you and your spouse fight over everything with attorneys and experts and have a large marital estate, then your divorce will likely be very expensive. If you are considering divorce in Arkansas, you may want to call 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.

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