Arkansas is a hybrid divorce state, which means divorcing spouses can request a no-fault or a fault-based divorce. One of the easiest ways to save time and money during the divorce process is to work with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse to create a divorce settlement agreement that addresses all the relevant divorce issues. Regardless of where you are in the divorce process, you and your spouse can choose to negotiate at any time. Of course, if either spouse requested a fault divorce, it could make negotiations more complex (but not impossible) later in the process.
Before a court can dissolve your marriage and grant a divorce, you must provide it with a legally-recognized reason—or grounds—for the request.
Grounds for divorce vary by state, but every state has adopted some form of “no-fault” divorce, which means that neither spouse must place blame on the other for the breakup.
Arkansas allows spouses to request a no-fault divorce if they've lived separate and apart for at least 18 consecutive months, without cohabitation. In other words, if one spouse voluntarily moved out and the spouses didn’t share a home or bed during the separation, either spouse can file for divorce using these no-fault separation grounds. It’s important to understand that if you and your spouse spend even a single night together during the 18 months, the clock for no-fault divorce will reset. (Ark. Code Ann. § 9-12-301 (b)(5).)
If you and your spouse can’t meet the requirements for a no-fault divorce, or if you're in a “covenant marriage,” you may be able to file for divorce based on your spouse’s marital misconduct. Generally, couples don’t want to air their dirty laundry in court, but in some situations, it may be the only way to obtain a divorce.
Covenant marriage is rare, and spouses will know if they're in one. Typically, spouses must agree to premarital and predivorce counseling and decide in advance how they will handle a divorce, should it happen in the future.
Couples involved in a covenant marriage don’t have the option to file for a no-fault divorce in Arkansas and must prove at least one of the state's established fault grounds. This type of marriage is meant to make divorce difficult, which is why it’s exceedingly rare. (Ark. Code Ann. § 9-12-301 (a).)
The acceptable grounds for fault-based divorce in Arkansas include:
The spouse filing for divorce must be able to prove the allegations to the court. For example, if you file based on your spouse’s cruel treatment throughout the marriage, you'll have to provide witness testimony, emails, voicemails, and/or photos to prove your case. If successful, the court will waive the 18-month separation period and proceed with the divorce immediately.
Contrary to popular belief, not all divorces are knock-down-drag-out fights. In fact, if divorcing couples in Arkansas agree on every legal issue in their case, they can use a more streamlined divorce process called an uncontested divorce.
For a no-fault, uncontested divorce, the court requires proof that the spouses have separated and are no longer living in the same home. In most cases, couples can show this to the court by providing testimony or an affidavit (a written document) from a third party who can verify it.
Uncontested divorce is generally less expensive and time-consuming because couples agree, in advance, on all the important legal issues, including:
The most critical part of this process is the agreement between the spouses. If at any time during the process, either spouse disagrees with a proposed term, the case will become contested, and you'll have to use another process to resolve it.
If you can’t prove that you live separate from your spouse, you can also file for an uncontested divorce using any of the fault-based factors. If the couple agrees on the grounds for divorce, the court won’t require proof. For example, if the couple agrees that one spouse’s affair is the reason for the breakdown of the marriage, the court will accept the couple’s statement and grant the request for an uncontested, fault-based divorce.
In order to file for divorce in Arkansas, the couple must meet the state's residency requirement and prove that at least one of them lived in the state for at least 60 days before filing. In any divorce process, the couple will have to wait for a minimum of 90 days before the court is able to grant the divorce petition--known as the state's "waiting period." (Ark. Code Ann. § 9-12-307.)