Divorce can be stressful under even the best of circumstances, but it doesn't have to involve a drawn-out, expensive court battle. If you and your spouse can agree on how you'll deal with the legal, financial, and practical details involved in ending your marriage, you can save money and time by getting an uncontested divorce in Arkansas.
If you want to file for an uncontested divorce in Arkansas, you and your spouse must:
Either or both spouses must have lived in the state for at least 60 days before filing. The final judgment granting the divorce can't be entered until one of the spouses has lived in the state for a full three months. (Ark. Code § 9-12-307 (2022).) That means that if you and your spouse just moved to Arkansas, you can file for divorce 60 days after arriving in the state, but then the court will have to wait at least another month before it can grant your divorce.
Arkansas allows both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorces. A no-fault divorce is one in which the court doesn't require either spouse to prove that the other's bad acts were the cause of the divorce. In a fault-based divorce, one or both of the spouses must show that the other's actions caused (were "grounds for") the failure of the marriage.
Unlike most states, Arkansas doesn't recognize basic incompatibility of the spouses as a reason for a no-fault divorce.
Arkansas' only no-fault ground for divorce is that the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least 18 continuous months. The separation can be by mutual agreement or because one of the parties moved out. (Ark. Code § 9-12-301(b)(5) (2022).)
Also unlike many other states, Arkansas courts won't just take your word for it that you meet the separation requirements—you'll have to prove that you've met these requirements by having a third party testify or sign an affidavit (a written declaration) about the matters. Arkansas courts refer to this as "corroboration of grounds." (Ark. Code Ann. § 9-12-306(c)(2) (2022).)
In most states, when you file a fault-based divorce you must present evidence to the court to prove the spouse's bad acts. However, in Arkansas, if you file an uncontested divorce based on a fault-based ground, you don't have to present evidence of the bad acts. (Ark. Code § 9-12-306(a) (2022).) (Note that you still will have to present evidence that you meet the state's residency requirement, though.)
Arkansas has the following fault-based grounds for divorce:
(Ark. Code § 9-12-301 (2022).)
Based on the fact that you don't have to corroborate fault-based grounds in an uncontested divorce, you might think that it would be easier to just commit adultery or another fault-based ground to avoid having to wait out the required separation period. Not so fast: Arkansas law prohibits agreeing to do an act ("colluding") or otherwise acting in a way so as to procure a divorce. If the judge believes that a spouse or both spouses did a certain act just to get a divorce, the judge won't grant the divorce decree. (Ark. Code § 9-12-308 (2022).)
Before you file for an uncontested divorce in Arkansas, you and your spouse will need to work out agreements on all the issues in your case, including:
If you're having trouble agreeing about any of these issues—or any other matters you want to address in your divorce—mediation might help you find solutions that work for both you and your spouse. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can use this document to prepare your written marital settlement agreement.
To start most uncontested divorces in Arkansas, you'll need to file a:
Arkansas doesn't have the option of filling out a joint complaint. Instead, only one spouse will complete (and file) the complaint. The spouse who files will be the "plaintiff," and the non-filing spouse will be the "defendant."
If you don't have children and own limited property, Arkansas Legal Aid provides an interactive questionnaire that will produce the documents you need to file for divorce.
Arkansas doesn't have a statewide approved form that you can use for your complaint. However, the Circuit Court Clerk's office in the county where you're filing for divorce (more on that below) might have forms that you can use.
Instead of tracking down and filling out the forms yourself, you can use an online divorce service that will provide you with the completed forms (based on your answers to a questionnaire) and walk you through the divorce process.
After you've finished completing and signing the forms, the next step will be to file the divorce paperwork with the Circuit Court Clerk's office in the county where you live. If you're not an Arkansas resident, you should file the papers in the county where your spouse lives. (Ark. Code § 9-12-303(a) (2022).)
Some circuit courts in Arkansas allow you to file your divorce papers electronically through the state's eFlex system. You'll have to pay a registration fee to sign up for the system.
Along with filing the right paperwork, you'll have to pay court filing fees to begin your divorce. As of 2022, the filing fee for divorce is $165. Filing fees can change, though, so confirm the amount of filing fees with the court clerk.
If you can't afford to pay the filing fees, you can ask the court for a waiver. To request a fee waiver, file a Petition for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis and a supporting affidavit. If the court grants the petition, you won't have to pay any court filing fees or a service of process fee (see below for more information about serving your spouse).
When you file your divorce paperwork, the court clerk will issue a "Summons." You'll need to provide notice of the divorce to your spouse by "serving" them with a copy of the divorce paperwork and the Summons. In an uncontested divorce, you can avoid having to serve the paperwork if your spouse signs and files an Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service of Summons (you can find this form in the divorce information packet provided by Legal Aid of Arkansas). If your spouse won't sign the waiver form, you can serve them by using one of the following methods:
If you don't receive your spouse's acknowledgment of service within 20 days after you mailed the package by regular mail, you'll have to pay for the sheriff's office or another court-approved process server to hand-deliver the documents to your spouse. But in that case, the judge will order your spouse to pay the cost unless there was a good reason for not returning the acknowledgment of service in time. (Ark. Rules Civ. Proc. Rule 4 (2022).)
If you haven't been able to find your spouse to serve the divorce papers, check with the court clerk about alternative methods of service, such as publication in a newspaper.
It's important to remember that if you don't serve your spouse within 120 days after you filed the divorce complaint, and there isn't a good reason for the delay, the court will dismiss your case. (Ark. Rules Civ. Proc. Rule 4(i) (2022).)
The absolute earliest that an Arkansas court can grant divorce is 30 days after the complaint is filed. (Ark. Code § 9-12-307 (2022).) However, even uncontested divorces usually take longer than 30 days to complete. After 30 days have passed since the filing, you must request a hearing date from the court clerk. At the hearing, you'll present your settlement agreement and evidence supporting your divorce complaint to the court.
Some Arkansas judges allow couples to get an uncontested divorce "by affidavit"—meaning there won't be a hearing—when the defendant spouse signs a waiver of service form. You'll still have to file a deposition—a sworn statement about the facts of the case—and will still have to have a witness file, one, too, in order to back up your residency and separation claims. Once the judge reviews these depositions, they might grant the divorce decree without a hearing. You can ask the court clerk if the judge in your case allows divorce by affidavit. You can find sample depositions on the Arkansas Law Help website.
As a rule, uncontested divorce is a lot cheaper than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because many couples can get through the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers to represent them—which leads to big savings on the normal cost of divorce.
The basic expense for an uncontested divorce will be the court fee to file the divorce papers. To have a sheriff or other process server serve your spouse there will be an additional fee.
Beyond these court costs and fees, your costs will depend on whether you get a "pure" do-it-yourself divorce or you need some help with the process.