If you have decided to file for divorce and want to know what the legal process involves, this article will give you a guide on how to file for divorce in the State of Arkansas.
Your county may have requirements in addition to the information below, so you should always check the court rules on your county's local website to find out what other steps you may need to take.
If you have specific questions about your particular case, you should contact an experienced Arkansas family law attorney.
Your first steps in the divorce process involve filling out the appropriate divorce forms and determining where you need to file or submit them: you need to make sure you're filing your forms in the correct county.
You should file for divorce in the county where you live, and you must have been a resident of that county for at least 60 days before filing for divorce. If you don't live in Arkansas, but your spouse does, you may file in the county where your spouse lives.
The first form to complete when filing for divorce is the "Complaint for Divorce." The spouse filing for divorce is the "Plaintiff," and the other spouse is the "Defendant."
Your complaint should state that at least one spouse has been a resident of Arkansas for at least 60 days, and provide a legal ground for divorce. (AR Code §9-12-301 (2017).)
In Arkansas, you must file based on one of the following grounds:
If you and your spouse can agree on all of your divorce issues, you may be able to proceed with an uncontested divorce, which minimizes court intervention and many of the headaches of a contested divorce. You would need to prepare and sign a property settlement agreement and state that you have resolved all the issues raised in your complaint for the court to accept it.
"Filing" for divorce means you have given your divorce complaint to the clerk's office or the circuit court in the county where you're filing. You'll provide a copy of your signed complaint to the clerk, and they should give you a copy with a date stamp and notation, showing that the court received it
The clerk will then issue a "Standard Restraining Order," which states that neither spouse may dissipate (waste) funds or assets and that neither spouse should harass the other.
In Arkansas, The judge cannot finalize your divorce until 30 days after you filed your complaint for divorce. (AR Code §9-12-307 (2017).)
You have to give your spouse a copy of your filed complaint - this is called "serving" your complaint. You can serve the paperwork on your spouse in any county of the state of Arkansas. There are several ways to serve your complaint on your spouse.
If your spouse agrees, your spouse or your spouse's attorney can accept service. Your spouse should sign a form you can find at your county clerk's office called an "Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service of Summons." This form must be signed and notarized.
You may also have your complaint served by the sheriff's office in your county. The sheriff will pick up the documents from the clerk's office and deliver them to your spouse. The sheriff will return the documents to the clerk's office and make a note in your court docket that your spouse received the paperwork, either personally or by the sheriff leaving the paperwork at the residence, which also qualifies as service.
You may serve your spouse by registered or certified mail. If your spouse accepts the package, the return receipt showing delivery is your proof to the court that you served your spouse with the complaint. If your spouse refuses service, the court will accept the certification of refusal and proceed as if your spouse received the documents.
If you cannot locate your spouse, you can still meet service requirements by asking the court issue a document called a "warning order," which directs the Defendant to appear within 30 days. The local newspaper or other publication located in the county of the court order will publish the warning order, which satisfies the service requirement.
Depending on local rules, your county may require that you make certain financial disclosures when you file for divorce. Some types of information and documents you will likely need to produce to your spouse include:
You can find detailed information on the divorce process and related issues at our section on Arkansas Divorce and Family Laws.
For the full text of the law governing filing for divorce, custody, child support, and alimony in Arkansas, see Arkansas Code, §9-12-1 through §9-14-807.
Online Arkansas divorce forms are also available here: http://www.arlegalservices.org/divorcepacket.