Arkansas Divorce Laws for Non-Covenant Marriages

By Elizabeth Rayne

While the promises made and the grounds for divorce are somewhat different, the divorce proceedings for a covenant and non-covenant marriage are actually quite similar. In either case, the couple may enter into a settlement agreement if they can agree on property distribution, child custody, child support and alimony. When the couple cannot agree, the court will follow the state's guidelines to determine the terms of the divorce.

While the promises made and the grounds for divorce are somewhat different, the divorce proceedings for a covenant and non-covenant marriage are actually quite similar. In either case, the couple may enter into a settlement agreement if they can agree on property distribution, child custody, child support and alimony. When the couple cannot agree, the court will follow the state's guidelines to determine the terms of the divorce.

Non-Covenant and Covenant Marriages

Arkansas law distinguishes between covenant and non-covenant marriages. Covenant marriages are similar to the non-covenant variety; in the covenant type, however, the couple takes additional steps to demonstrate their understanding that a marriage is a lifelong commitment. To pursue a covenant marriage, you must complete premarital counseling and indicate on the marriage license that you want a covenant marriage. The greatest difference between the two varieties is the grounds the couple may plead in order to get a divorce.

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Grounds and Waiting Period

For either type of marriage, the couple must have grounds for divorce. Both covenant and non-covenant marriages allow divorce on the grounds of adultery, a felony conviction or spousal abuse. For covenant marriages, divorce may be granted if the couple have lived apart for at least two years. With non-covenant marriage, the separation period is only 18 months, and the couple may also divorce on the grounds of habitual drunkenness or insanity. Further, for both types of marriage, Arkansas law imposes a waiting period before the couple may divorce. After the complaint for divorce is filed, the court will not grant a divorce until at least 30 days have passed.

Equitable Distribution

When it comes to property division, Arkansas is an equitable distribution state. In most cases, the court will consider all property acquired by either spouse during the marriage as marital property. Marital property will be divided in a manner that is fair and equitable to the parties; however, such division is not always equal. The court will consider a number of factors when determining a fair distribution, such as the length of the marriage, contribution of each spouse during the marriage and economic circumstances of each spouse.

Child Custody and Support

In determining child custody, the courts in Arkansas will look at what is in the best interest of the child, while child support is determined by the income of the noncustodial parent. In child custody issues, courts strive to maintain frequent contact between the child and both parents, and create a custody arrangement which will most benefit the health and happiness of the child. For child support, Arkansas is one of the few states that still use the "percentage of income" model. The court will only consider the income of the noncustodial parent when determining support. Therefore, the amount of support will be a percentage of the noncustodial parent's income.

Alimony

Depending on the facts of a particular case, Arkansas courts have discretion to award alimony to one spouse. The court may award alimony if it is reasonable and will consider a number of factors, such as the length of the marriage, health of the spouses, and finances of each spouse. Unless the couple agrees otherwise, alimony usually ends when one spouse remarries or has a child with someone else.

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