Arkansas favors marriage and requires proof of the grounds on which a petition for divorce is based. Most people file for divorce on the basis of an 18-month continuous separation or "general indignities," although the state recognizes several other fault grounds. Usually, a witness must testify about the breakup of the marriage in open court. Couples who enter into the state’s covenant marriage face strict limitations on their ability to divorce.
You or your spouse must be a resident of Arkansas for 60 days to file for divorce in the state, and you must file in the county where one of you lives. After you file a complaint for divorce, there is a 30-day waiting period before a judge can sign a divorce decree. In uncontested divorces, when the spouses agree on everything, usually only one hearing is necessary and the divorce is ordered at that hearing. A contested divorce usually involves a temporary hearing soon after the action is filed to establish how the spouses are to interact with regard to issues, such as property and children, until the divorce is finalized. The judge can award temporary custody, visitation, child support and alimony at the temporary hearing.
The most common grounds for divorce in Arkansas are separation for 18 months or "general indignities," which is described as "rudeness, settled hate or alienation." Other grounds include conviction of a felony or notorious crime, addiction to drugs or alcohol for one year, life-threatening cruelty, adultery, insanity, or impotency. Impotency includes unwillingness or inability to have sexual relations. The behavior that substantiates these grounds must have occurred within the five years preceding the filing of the action for divorce.
Arkansas is one of three states that have passed covenant marriage laws. The state’s Covenant Marriage Act of 2001 is designed to preserve marriages; therefore, it places limitations on your ability to obtain a divorce if you have chosen to enter a covenant marriage. A couple in a covenant marriage must receive counseling before divorcing and can obtain a divorce only for specific reasons. The petitioning spouse must prove adultery; commission of a felony or infamous crime; or physical or sexual abuse of herself or a child. In the absence of these fault grounds, the spouses must show they have lived continuously apart for two years. If the spouses are legally separated, they must show they have lived continuously apart for two years from the date of the separation, two years and six months if there are minor children involved, or one year if the separation was granted for abuse.
Arkansas is a community property state, which means the property and debt acquired during the marriage is marital property and marital debt, with some exceptions. Marital property is usually divided equally between the spouses while spouses keep their respective nonmarital property. Generally, property owned before the marriage, and the income derived from it, as well as inherited property are considered nonmarital property. Other nonmarital property includes workers’ compensation settlements, personal injury settlements and Social Security benefits related to a disability. If dividing the marital property equally would be unjust, the court can distribute the property based on many factors dictated by the state code, which include the length of the marriage; each spouse’s age and health status; each spouse's occupation, income, skills, employability and future earnings potential; the tax consequences of division; and each spouse's contribution to the property, including services as a homemaker. The court can order the sale of property if equitable division is not feasible.
References & Resources
- Arkansas Legal Services Partnership: Divorce (Overview)
- Rhine, Rhine & Young: Grounds for Divorce
- Justia.com: Arkansas Code Annotated: § 9-12-315 - Division of property.
- Hopkins & Holmes: Divorce in Arkansas
- Saline County Arkansas: 10 Important Things to Know About Filing a Divorce
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: State Policies to Promote Marriage
- Arkansas State Legislature: Covenant Marriage Act 2001
- Arkansas Legal Services Partnership: Law Help Interactive
- Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images