Arkansas Divorce Laws

Residence Requirements:  In order to file for a divorce in Arkansas, residency requirements must be met for the court to have jurisdiction over the case. In Arkansas, either spouse must have lived in Arkansas for at least 60 days prior to filing for divorce. The divorce decree will not be finalized until a three-month waiting period has passed from the initial filing.

The Arkansas Divorce Process: Once residency has been established, the parties must follow the correct procedure, as outlined below.

Where to File: The person initiating the divorce proceeding (“Plaintiff”) must file a Complaint with the Chancery Court in the county where they reside. If the Plaintiff spouse does not live in Arkansas and the spouse receiving the initial divorce papers (“Defendant”) is an Arkansas resident, the divorce proceeding must be filed in the county where the resident spouse lives.

The Arkansas court where the divorce will be filed is the Chancery Court of Arkansas. The Plaintiff will file a Complaint asking the court to grant a divorce decree. The Complaint also asks the court to decide other issues such as child custody, child support, visitation, property division and other issues.

When the Complaint is filed, the court will assign a case number and will facilitate the divorce process including the power to grant all orders concerning the divorce. The divorce proceeding is handled through the County Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court. This is the office where all documents are filed. The Clerk’s Office will manage the paperwork involved in the divorce proceeding.

Filing Fees: The filing fee for an uncontested divorce is $100.00. If the divorce is contested or the Defendant spouse cannot be located to sign the agreement, additional costs will be incurred such as witness fees, service of process fees and fees for publication in local newspapers.

Grounds: To be eligible to obtain a divorce in Arkansas, the parties must prove they have legal grounds under Arkansas law to be granted a divorce. Arkansas does not recognize “no fault” grounds for divorce.

The grounds for divorce in Arkansas are:

  1. When either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is impotent;
  2. When either party shall be convicted of a felony or other infamous crime;
  3. When either party shall:
    • Be addicted to habitual drunkenness for one year;
    • Be guilty of such cruel and barbarous treatment as to endanger the life of another;
    • Offer such indignities to the person of the other as shall render his or her condition intolerable;
  4. When either party shall have committed adultery subsequent to the marriage;
  5. When the husband and wife have lived separate and apart from each other for eighteen (18) continuous months, without cohabitation, whether the separation was the voluntary act of one party or by the mutual consent of both parties or due to the fault of either or both parties;
  6. When the husband and the wife have lived separate and apart for three (3) consecutive years without cohabitation by reason of incurable insanity on one of them (see statute for additional details)

Therefore, unless the plaintiff can prove that the couple has been living separate and apart, without cohabitation, for 18 months, the plaintiff will have to prove some misconduct by their spouse.

Covenant Marriage: Arkansas recognizes a covenant marriage, which is a “higher” form of marriage where the couple legally contracts to be married for life. Under a covenant marriage, the couple automatically agrees to attend marriage counseling before pursuing divorce. Grounds for an Arkansas divorce are more limited under a covenant marriage. Only adultery, felony conviction or domestic violence can be used as grounds for divorce. A couple may also pursue divorce after separation, but under an Arkansas covenant marriage, the couple must live separately for two years (or two and a half years, if minor children are involved) instead of eighteen months.

Service and Response: A copy of the Arkansas divorce complaint and a summons must be served (personally delivered by someone other than the plaintiff) on the defendant spouse. The defendant spouse has 20 days (30 days if living outside of Arkansas) of delivery of the complaint to file a written answer or response with the circuit clerk’s office in the county where the divorce was filed. If the defendant spouse does not answer the complaint within the required time, that party will be in default and gives up the right to be notified or to participate in any hearings.

Temporary Orders (Ex Parte Orders): A party in an Arkansas divorce may request that the court issue a temporary order deciding issues such as custody, visitation, and child support temporarily. The court will often schedule a hearing with both parties present to obtain additional information before entering such an order.

Witness: The grounds for an Arkansas divorce must be substantiated with evidence or testimony from a witness. If the defendant spouse contests the divorce, a witness must testify about some fact or circumstance to convince the judge that the accusations are true.

Simplified Divorce Procedure: If a divorce is uncontested, proof of a spouse’s residency, proof of separation, and proof of no cohabitation may be provided by a signed affidavit of a third party.

Marital or Separation Agreements: The court may enforce the performance of written agreements between husband and wife, entered into in contemplation of separation or divorce.

 Divorce Decree: After the 30 day waiting period and after all the issues raised in the complaint have been worked out, the judge will issue an Arkansas divorce decree, detailing the rights and responsibilities of the parties. This decree legally ends the marriage.

Mediation and/or Parenting Classes: In Arkansas, the divorce court may require parents of minor children to either attend at least two hours of parenting classes, concerning the issues faced by divorced parents, or submit the parties to mediation to address parenting, custody and visitation issues.

Same Sex Marriage: Arkansas has adopted the federal Defense of Marriage Act into the state constitution and into state law. In addition, the voters passed a state constitutional amendment banning same sex marriages and codifying marriage as a heterosexual union.

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