A Guide to Divorce in Arkansas
This is a complete guide to divorce in Arkansas.
In this guide, you’ll get educated on exactly how divorce works in Alaska.
Specifically, we’ll cover the differences between divorce and legal separation, types of divorce, overview of the process, how much it costs, and a whole lot more.
So if you want to make sure you have a lay of the land (and steer clear of the landmines), we’ve got you covered.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
- The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in Arkansas?
- Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
- The process of filing for divorce
- How to complete proof of service
- Filing for a divorce online
- Filing for divorce in Arkansas without using a lawyer
- How much does divorce cost in Arkansas?
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
- Should I retain the services of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
- Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in Arkansas?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is a divorce certificate?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources for a Better Divorce
The differences between legal separation, annulment and divorce
Spouses can end their marriages in Arkansas by divorce or annulment. Legal separation is also permitted, but it does not officially end a marriage.
Legal Separation. Legal separation is a binding agreement between two spouses that covers the period of separation until a divorce can be finalized. It specifies how many issues are to be decided including child custody, alimony and child support, and a division of assets, among others.
In many cases, legal separation provides a much-needed time out and stepping away can often bring added perspective about what a couple will lose in a marriage and possibly give them time to heal from the issues that caused their marriage to come under stress.
Spouses may also choose legal separation for religious reasons. Some religions do not look favorably upon divorce and staying married though legally separated puts less pressure on a couple who might otherwise be in conflict with their church and religious beliefs.
Annulment. Annulments are granted in Arkansas as long as specific grounds are met. An annulment means that a marriage is considered null, as if it never happened.
Grounds for an annulment are met when someone is incapable of lawfully consenting to a marriage for any the following reasons:
- one or both parties were too young to legally marry
- one or both parties were mentally unable to understand and consent to the marriage
- one or both parties were incapable of marrying due to physical causes
- consent to marry was obtained through fraud or force
You can petition the circuit court in the county where you live if you want to seek an annulment.
Divorce. Divorce is a permanent and legal end to a marriage in Arkansas. All ties are severed, assets are divided, custody and alimony issues are resolved, and each spouse goes their separate way after a final decree is issued.
What are the grounds for divorce in Arkansas?
Arkansas allows for both no-fault and a fault-based grounds for divorce.
To be eligible for a no-fault divorce, which means you do not need to state a specific reason, you must have lived separate and apart from your spouse for at least consecutive 18 months. You are not allowed to spend even a single night together or the clock will reset.
In Arkansas, if you don’t meet the requirements for a no-fault divorce, you can file for divorce based on your spouse’s marital misconduct or if you are in a covenant marriage.
Covenant marriages are not common in the state, and usually require that spouses agree to premarital and predivorce counseling to decide these issues in advance in case they become a reality. Persons in a covenant marriage cannot file for a no-fault divorce.
To avoid a long waiting period, a spouse must prove at least one of the state’s grounds for divorce. Those grounds include:
- conviction of a felony
- habitual drunkenness for at least one year after the marriage began
- cruel and barbarous treatment toward a spouse
- behavior which results in intolerable humiliation, embarrassment, or shame to the other spouse
- living separate and apart for a minimum of 3 years if one spouse is incurably insane
- willful failure to support the other spouse despite a legal obligation to do so.
What are your options for divorce?
Aside from the decision to get a divorce, the single most important decision you will make is the type of divorce.
You see, there are only two ways that you reach a final resolution:
- You and your spouse agree
- A judge decides
That’s it. Those are the only two ways to get a divorce in Arkansas.
The type of divorce sets the frameworks for how you get to a final resolution. The process you and your spouse choose sets the tone and shapes the outcome of your divorce.
Before we get into the details, there’s one thing I want you to keep in mind: One type of divorce is not “better” than another. Divorce is not one size fits all.
Here are the types of divorce:
- Do-It-Yourself Divorce: What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
- Online Divorce: A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse.
- Litigation: The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids. Sometimes it’s the only viable option, however. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
- Mediation: With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
- Collaborative Divorce: Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions. That’s what a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist. Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
What is the process of filing for divorce in Arkansas?
The basic processes are all pretty much the same when you start the divorce process in Arkansas, no matter which method you ultimately choose.
Gather important information.
To give yourself the best chance at achieving the best possible outcome, you need to be organized and proactive when it comes to pulling together the information you will need.
By doing so, you can ensure your rights are protected while also saving time, money and anxiety for the next steps in your divorce.
Before you jump in to collecting financial information, take the following steps:
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name alone.
- Open a credit card in your name alone.
- Order a free credit report.
- Make a list of all the assets and liabilities that you’re aware of. Include any memberships, reward points, and other perks that may be considered as assets.
If you’re in the dark about your finances, that’s okay. You and your spouse will be required to complete financial affidavits as part of the divorce process. The goal at this point is simply to begin identifying the puzzle pieces.
Okay, now it’s time to start gathering your information. Here’s a short-list of what you need:
- Tax returns (including W-2’s, K-1’s, and 1099’s) for the last 5 years
- Pay stubs for the last 3 months
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension plan statements
- Grant notice for stock options, RSUs, etc.
- Investment account statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate appraisals
- Deeds to real estate
- Car registration
- Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”)
- Car loan statements
- Social security benefit statement
Complete the initial paperwork.
Once you decide how to proceed with your divorce, you’ll need to complete a Complaint for Divorce. If you have a simple divorce and meet the necessary criteria, you can access a set of forms to complete here.
File your forms.
Paperwork must be filed in the circuit court clerk’s office in the county where you live.
If you don’t live in Arkansas, you should file your complaint in the county where your spouse lives. You must be able to demonstrate that at least one of you have lived in Arkansas for at least 60 days.
You must then serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of the divorce petition.
Completing proof of service in Arkansas
You are legally required to give your spouse documentation after you have filed your paperwork with the court. This can be accomplished in a number of ways.
- Personal service. A server gives the court papers to the party being served. This can either be a professional process service or a sheriff’s deputy. You will receive a certificate of service or return which is then filed with the court.
- Service by mail. You mail the documents to the other party via certified mail. You have to attach the return receipt and the envelope to the Affidavit of Service.
- Service by publication. If you don’t know how to find the other party you can publish the summons and complaint in a newspaper in the area where the other party is likely to be.
A spouse may agree to waive the service of the Summons and Complaint. If a spouse does agree to waive service then he or she must sign the Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service of Summons Form. This form must also be notarized meaning that the spouse must sign the form in front of notary public.
If the defendant is in jail or prison, you must give a copy of the summons and complaint to the administrator of the institution who will then relay the paperwork to the defendant.
If you don’t know where the defendant lives or where they are, you still have to prove to the judge that you completed service.
You can do this through Service by Warning Order or Service by Publication. This warning order has to be published weekly for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper that circulates in the county where you filed the court forms.
Can you file for divorce online in Arkansas?
No, but you can use the services of a private attorney or one of several online services to assist you. Much of the prep work can be done by trading emails or completing forms online.
If you decide to pursue a divorce on your own, understand that the Arkansas court system does not provide any forms online and you need to get the forms from the specific county where you plan to file your divorce in.
When the forms are completed, they will need to be filed at the appropriate courthouse.
Filing for divorce in Arkansas without using a lawyer
You are not required to use a lawyer to get a divorce in Arkansas. In some cases, you may be able to complete the forms and go through the entire process on your own.
This generally works best when both spouses can agree on all issues ahead of time and submit a settlement plan to the court for approval. A hearing will be held at least 30 days after the complaint has been filed and at that time, if you have a signed settlement agreement, you will present it to the judge for approval.
If the judge is satisfied with the elements of the agreement, he or she will sign the decree of divorce.
How much will it cost to file?
Fees to file for divorce in Arkansas vary from county to county but are generally around $150. For an exact filing fee, check with the county court where you plan to file.
You will also need to pay a service fee to have your paperwork delivered formally to your spouse. There will also be additional filing fees every time you submit additional documents to the court.
You may be able to ask a judge to waive the fees associated with filings in a divorce case by demonstrating that you do not have the means to pay for the filing.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Arkansas?
With a no-fault divorce, you must live apart from your spouse for a minimum of 18 months.
In a fault-based divorce, at least one of the spouses must prove that at least one of them lived in Arkansas for at least 60 days.
In all divorce cases, as long as other conditions have been met, then a couple is required to wait for a minimum of 90 days before the court grants a final petition.
A final judgment may take longer depending on the venue, court backlog or other circumstances.
Should I work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
Divorcing spouses in Arkansas often retain a family law attorney to help them through the process. In simple cases, an attorney may be equipped to handle all aspects of the divorce, including the finances.
But if you have a degree of complexity to your financial situation, you might benefit from working with a divorce financial planning expert.
The best professional to help in these situations is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and preferably someone who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
A CDFA has specialized training in the financial and tax implications of divorce and can work with you to help you understand the pros and cons of your options.
Can I cancel, stop or reverse a divorce in Arkansas?
No. If your spouse wants a divorce in Arkansas, you can’t stop them.
But if you are the petitioner who filed the paperwork to start the divorce, as long as the divorce has not been finalized by the court, you can petition to withdraw the action by filing a motion to dismiss.
What is a divorce decree?
A court will issue a final divorce decree detailing all the terms both parties must follow after the issues have been decided.
A decree terminates a marriage and provides details of the rights and responsibilities of each party, including a division of assets, child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and other similar issues.
Because it is a legally binding document, either party can take legal actions to make sure that there is full compliance.
What is a divorce certificate?
A divorce certificate contains minimal information about a divorce such as the names of the parties involved and when a divorce was finalized. They are typically acceptable for proof of divorce for other legal purposes, such as getting married again.
Copies of a divorce certificate are kept on file with The Arkansas Division of Vital Records. Copies are available for events that occurred within the State of Arkansas from 1950 to the end of 2010. The cost is $10 for each copy ordered.
You may order copies of Arkansas divorce records for yourself or for an immediate family member (parent, spouse, adult child, grandparent). If you are not a member of the certificate holder’s immediate family, you must submit your order via fax, along with proof of entitlement.
Changing Your Name
When preparing your divorce forms, you will be presented either an option to either restore your former name or request a court order for changing names.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You may either receive a separate court order making your name change official, or else have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Either of these documents are accepted with all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
Your name change will not take effect just because you have a court order. You need to contact all your organizations to request your records are updated.
It takes a long time to reach out to each company and figure out what to send where, so we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to cut out the 10+ hours of research and paperwork that follows.
Recommended Divorce Resources
Many divorce resources are out there that make grand claims. We’ve tested a bunch of them. Most fall short. A few stand above the rest.
We’ve put together the tools and resources that we’re excited to share with you because we’re certain they can help you have a better divorce.
If you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Co-parenting apps
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- And a whole lot more