Grounds for Divorce in Arkansas

Learn more about the no-fault, fault-based, and uncontested divorce processes in Arkansas.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, there’s nothing you can do to save a failing relationship. If you’re facing a divorce, you might be wondering where to start. This article will help you understand the requirements for divorce in Arkansas.

What Is No-Fault Divorce?

Whether you held your wedding in a park, an office, or a church, in the eyes of every state, you created a legal contract with your spouse. Before a court can grant a divorce, it must have a legally recognized reason—or grounds—and it’s your responsibility to provide it to the court.

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 relationship’s demise.

Arkansas allows spouses to request a no-fault divorce if they have 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 no-fault 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.

Fault-Based Divorce in Arkansas

If you and your spouse can’t meet the requirements for a no-fault divorce, or if you are 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 are 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.

The acceptable grounds for fault-based divorce in Arkansas include:

  • impotency
  • conviction of a felony
  • habitual drunkenness for at least one year after the marriage began
  • cruel and barbarous treatment toward a spouse
  • either spouse committed adultery, and
  • living separate and apart for a minimum of 3 years if one spouse is incurably insane.

The spouse filing the divorce documents must be able to prove the allegations to the court. For example, in one Arkansas case, a wife filed for divorce based on her husband’s cruel treatment of her throughout the marriage. During the divorce trial, she was able to prove that her husband frequently cursed at and physically abused her and that on one or more occasions, he struck her, threatened to kill her, and ordered her to leave the home. In this case, the court didn’t require the wife to wait the full 18 months for a no-fault divorce, and instead, granted the divorce based on her husband’s marital misconduct.

What Is Uncontested Divorce?

Contrary to popular belief, not all divorces are knock-down-drag-out fights. In fact, if couples agree on every major legal issue in the divorce, Arkansas allows them to file 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.

This type of no-fault divorce is generally less expensive and time-consuming because couples agree, in advance, on all the important legal issues, including:

  • division of marital property and debt
  • whether either spouse will provide alimony to the other
  • which spouse will be responsible for the children (custody), and
  • child support.

The most critical factor in this type of legal process is an agreement between the spouses. If at any time during the process, either spouse disagrees with the other, the court will convert your request to a contested no-fault, or fault-based divorce.

If you can’t prove that you live separate from your spouse, you can also file for 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.

What Are the Requirements for Divorce?

Before the court will accept a request for any divorce, the couple must prove that at least one of them lived in the state for at least 60 days. In any divorce process, the couple will wait for a minimum of 90 days before the court will grant the divorce petition.

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