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Arkansas: State Divorce Laws

Residency and Filing Requirements: In order to file for a divorce in Arkansas, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:

A spouse must be a resident of the state of Arkansas for at least 60 days prior to filing for the divorce and the divorce will not be finalized until a 3 months waiting period has passed after the initial filing.

The proceedings shall be in the county where the complainant resides unless the complainant is a nonresident of the State of Arkansas and the defendant is a resident of the state, in which case the proceedings shall be in the county where the defendant resides, and, in any event, the process may be directed to any county in the state. (Arkansas Code - Title 9 - Chapters: 12-301 and 12-303)
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Grounds for Filing: The Complaint for Divorce must declare the appropriate Arkansas grounds upon which the divorce is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The divorce grounds are as follows:

The circuit court shall have power to dissolve and set aside a marriage contract, not only from bed and board, but from the bonds of matrimony, for the following causes:

(1) When husband and wife have lived separate and apart from each other for eighteen (18) continuous months without cohabitation, the court shall grant an absolute decree of divorce at the suit of either party, whether the separation was the voluntary act of one (1) party or by the mutual consent of both parties or due to the fault of either party or both parties;

(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) Be addicted to habitual drunkenness for one (1) year; (4) Be guilty of such cruel and barbarous treatment as to endanger the life of the other; or (5) Offer such indignities to the person of the other as shall render his or her condition intolerable; (6) When either party shall have committed adultery subsequent to the marriage. (Arkansas Code - Title 9 - Chapters: 12-301)

Filing Spouse Title: Plaintiff. The Plaintiff is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.

Non-Filing Spouse Title: Defendant. The Defendant is the spouse who does not file the initial divorce papers, but rather receives them by service.

Court Name: In the Chancery Court of __________ Arkansas. This is the Arkansas court where the divorce will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.

Primary Documents: Complaint for Divorce and the Decree of Divorce. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a divorce according to Arkansas law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process. A few other documents that are typically filed during the process are: Domestic Relations Case Cover sheet, Affidavit of Corroborating Witness, Marital Settlement Agreement, and Affidavit of Financial Means.

Court Clerk's Title: County Clerk's Office of the Superior Court. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.

Property Distribution: Since Arkansas is an "equitable distribution" state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.

If the parties can not come to agreement on the division of the marital property, the court distributed one-half (1/2) to each party unless the court finds such a division to be inequitable. In that event the court shall make some other division that the court deems equitable taking into consideration: (i) The length of the marriage; (ii) Age, health, and station in life of the parties; (iii) Occupation of the parties; (iv) Amount and sources of income; (v) Vocational skills; (vi) Employability; (vii) Estate, liabilities, and needs of each party and opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income; (viii) Contribution of each party in acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of marital property, including services as a homemaker; and (ix) The Federal Income Tax consequences of the court's division of property. (Arkansas Code - Title 9 - Chapters: 12-315)

Restoration or Name Change: In all cases when the court finds that either party is entitled to a divorce, the court may restore the wife to the name which she bore previous to the marriage dissolved. (Arkansas Code - Title 9 - Chapters: 12-318)

Spousal Support: Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.

When a decree is entered, the court shall make orders concerning the alimony of the wife or the husband and the care of the children, if there are any, as are reasonable from the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case. Unless otherwise ordered by the court or agreed to by the parties, the liability for alimony shall automatically cease upon the earlier of: (A) The date of the remarriage of the person who was awarded the alimony; or (B) The establishment of a relationship that produces a child or children and results in a court order directing another person to pay support to the recipient of alimony, which circumstances shall be considered the equivalent of remarriage; or (C) The establishment of a relationship that produces a child or children and results in a court order directing the recipient of alimony to provide support of another person who is not a descendant by birth or adoption of the payer of the alimony, which circumstances shall be considered the equivalent of remarriage. (Arkansas Code - Title 9 - Chapters: 12-312)

(2) In determining a reasonable amount of support, initially or upon review to be paid by the noncustodial parent, the court shall refer to the most recent revision of the Family Support Chart. It shall be a rebuttable presumption for the award of child support that the amount contained in the Family Support Chart is the correct amount of child support to be awarded. Only upon a written finding or specific finding on the record that the application of the support chart would be unjust or inappropriate, as determined under established criteria set forth in the Family Support Chart, shall the presumption be rebutted.

Child Custody: When minor children are involved in a divorce, the Arkansas courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.

In an action for divorce, the award of custody of a child of the marriage shall be made without regard to the sex of a parent but solely in accordance with the welfare and best interest of the child.

In determining the best interest of the child, the court may consider the preferences of the child if the child is of a sufficient age and capacity to reason, regardless of chronological age; The past and future roles of the parents; and past domestice violence.

A grandparent shall be entitled to notice and shall be granted an opportunity to be heard in any child custody proceeding involving a grandchild who is twelve (12) months of age or younger when: (a) A grandchild resides with this grandparent for at least six (6) continuous months prior to the grandchild's first birthday; (b) The grandparent was the primary caregiver for and financial supporter of the grandchild during the time the grandchild resided with the grandparent; and (c) The continuous custody occurred within one (1) year of the date the child custody proceeding was initiated. (Arkansas Code - Title 9 - Chapters: 13-101)

Child Support: Arkansas child support guidelines uses the Percentage of Income Formula which calculates the support obligation as a percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent who is obligated to support the child. This method simply applies a percentage to the income of the parent according to the number of children requiring support.

The circuit courts in the several counties in this state shall have exclusive jurisdiction in all civil cases and matters relating to the support of a minor child or support owed to a person eighteen (18) or older which accrued during that person's minority.

The following may file a petition to require the noncustodial parent or parents of a minor child to provide support for the minor child: (1) Any parent having physical custody of a minor child; (2) Any other person or agency to whom physical custody of a minor child has been given or relinquished; (3) A minor child by and through his guardian or next friend; or (4) The Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration when the parent or person to whom physical custody has been relinquished or awarded is receiving assistance in the form of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Medicaid, Title IV-E of the Social Security Act - Foster Care, or has contracted with the Department for the Collection of Support. (Arkansas Code - Title 9 - Chapters: 12-312, 14-105)

Copyright Notice: The above synopsis of Arkansas divorce laws is original material which is owned an copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.

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