In Arkansas, as in all states, you need to have a legally acceptable reason (or "ground") for divorce. Arkansas allows both fault-based and no-fault divorce grounds. The state mandates a lengthy separation to get a no-fault divorce, but you and your spouse might be able to work around this requirement if you can cooperate in your divorce. Read on for details.
Most states allow couples to file for a no-fault divorce based on general incompatibility, such as "irreconcilable differences" or "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." Not in Arkansas. In order to get a no-fault divorce, you and your spouse must have lived separate and apart for at least 18 months without any interruption or "cohabitation" (understood as sexual relations). You'll need to provide some evidence to support your claim that you were living apart the entire time. (Ark. Code §§ 9-12-301(b)(5), 9-12-306(c) (2022).)
The mandatory separation period is even longer (two years or more) if you're one of the rare couples with a "covenant marriage" in Arkansas, which has special requirements—including premarital counseling and a declaration when you get married. (Ark. Code § 9-11-808(a)(4) (2022).)
When you file for a fault-based divorce in Arkansas, you must claim one of the following reasons for the end of your marriage:
Arkansas courts have held that the "indignities" must be continuous, consistent behaviors that demonstrate hatred or contempt. Garden-variety quarrels, even if they're constant, aren't enough. (Ark. Code § 9-12-301(b)(1)-(4) (2022); Poore v. Poore, 61 S.W.3d 912 (Ark. Ct. App. 2001).)
Although it's not technically a fault-based ground, you may also file for divorce based on the fact that your spouse has been legally committed to a psychiatric institution for at least three years. (Ark. Code § 9-12-301(b)(6) (2022).)
When you file for a fault-based divorce, you'll generally need to prove your claims in court with corroborating evidence. For example, if you file based on your spouse's cruel treatment that endangered your life, you'll have to provide evidence such as police reports, medical records, emails, texts, photos, or testimony from other people who actually witnessed the events. This requirement is the main reason that fault-based divorces can take longer and be more expensive (think lawyers' fees).
However, there are two ways to get around the separation requirement for no-fault divorce in Arkansas without lengthy court battles to prove your spouse's misconduct: filing for an uncontested divorce, or having your spouse sign a written waiver of the corroboration requirement.
Arkansas law specifically exempts uncontested divorces from the requirement to provide corroborating evidence of the grounds for divorce. (Ark. Code § 9-12-306(a) (2022).)
To take advantage of this exception, you and your spouse will need to agree on all of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, including the grounds for divorce (such as a spouse's affair), the division of marital property and debts, alimony, and—when you have minor children—child support and custody. If the two of you are having trouble reaching a complete settlement agreement, divorce mediation might be a good solution.
Even if your divorce is contested, there's another way to avoid having to provide supporting evidence of fault-based divorce grounds: by having your spouse sign a written, explicit waiver of the corroboration requirement. (Ark. Code § 9-12-306(b) (2022).)
Arkansas has a two-pronged residency requirement to get divorced in the state. Either you or your spouse must have been a state resident for at least:
(Ark. Code § 9-12-307 (2022).)
Learn more about filing for divorce in Arkansas and the steps needed to get your final divorce.