A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Arkansas
If you have made the decision to file for divorce in Arkansas, it is your best interests to understand what the issues are and the decisions you will need to make can help you move forward with a higher degree of confidence for what lies ahead.
Here are some important things to know:
- Gathering Important Information
- Divorce Process Options
- Fill Out the Necessary Forms
- File Your Documents
- Serving Your Spouse with Divorce Papers
- Frequently Asked Questions about Filing for Divorce in Arkansas
Gathering your important information
No matter your circumstances, you will benefit from being organized at the outset when it comes to tracking down the financial documentation that you’ll need.
Many parts of divorce can be overwhelming, so any steps you can take to save time and reduce stress and anxiety should be a priority for you early in the process.
Decide how you proceed with your divorce
Once you or your spouse has made the decision to get a divorce, you need to decide how to get divorced. You have several options, driven in part by your relationship with your spouse and how well you can work together to reach a resolution.
Here are the most common types of divorce:
- Collaborative divorce
So, which option is right for you? To answer that, you really need to weigh the pros and cons and think about your goals for the process.
Fill Out the Necessary Forms
To officially start the process, you’ll need to fill out several forms and submit them to the court.
An attorney can help you with this process, making sure that you are using the right forms and that they are filled out correctly.
But if you plan on completing the forms yourself, you can go to your county courthouse and pick up the appropriate paperwork. The forms you need will vary depending on your circumstances.
The exception to this is if you have a simple divorce and meet the necessary criteria, you can access a set of forms to complete here.
If you want help completing paperwork, you may be able to find a local legal aid non-profit to assist you. Court personnel can answer some questions, but they are limited in what they can do.
File Your Documents
In Arkansas, paperwork must be filed in the circuit court clerk’s office in the county where you live.
If you don’t live in the state, 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.
After you file, you must then serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of the divorce petition.
Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
Proof of service can be completed 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.
- 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 can’t locate the defendant, you must still 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.
In all cases, proof has to be given to the court clerk within 120 days after filing your court forms. If you don’t, then your case can be dismissed.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Arkansas
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Arkansas?
Costs vary slightly from county to county but expect your filing fees to be about $150. If you need an exact cost, contact the court where you expect to file.
You will also need to pay a fee to have the paperwork served on your spouse. This cost will also vary depending on the method you use.
Can divorce fees be waived in Arkansas?
You can request a fee waiver through what is known as In Forma Pauperis when you cannot afford to pay the court filing fee and costs for filing a court form. Before you file your court forms, you can request a fee waiver from the court.
The court may consider the current federal poverty guidelines and will look at your ability to pay the filing fee based on what you own and how much money you make.
Fees are not automatically waived. They must be approved by the court.
You can find links to the forms here:
Can I file for a divorce online in Arkansas?
You can work with a legal service or a private attorney via email on online to complete much of the paperwork up front in Arkansas, but you will still need to file your paperwork in person at your local county courthouse.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Arkansas?
Your circumstances will have an impact on how long it takes to get a divorce in Arkansas.
In 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 spouse must prove they have lived in the state for at least 60 days.
After a spouse has been officially served, he or she has 30 days to respond to the complaint in writing.
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.
If a divorce is contested through a trial, or you use other means such as mediation or arbitration, it could take several additional months to resolve issues before a final judgment is entered.
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Arkansas?
To file for divorce in Arkansas, you must provide proof that one or both spouses have lived in the state for the preceding 60 days.
Can I file for divorce in Arkansas without using a lawyer?
Yes. But if you have any outstanding disagreements with your spouse or your divorce has any level of complexity attached to it, you should consider retaining legal advice to protect your interests.
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. If the judge approves the settlement, he or she will sign the decree of divorce.
Can I get a divorce in Arkansas if I am pregnant?
You can file for divorce in Arkansas if you are pregnant, but you cannot obtain a final judgment until after the child has been born. This law is in place to make sure that issues related to child support and child custody are properly dealt with before a divorce is finalized.
How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Arkansas?
There are certain rules and processes that govern how military divorces are handled in Arkansas.
To start, you or your spouse must either live or be stationed in Arkansas so that proper jurisdiction can apply. The same grounds that apply for a civilian divorce also apply for a military divorce as well.
When a spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This has several protections for military personnel currently serving on active duty.
Among these, it allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments. However, a service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.
A division of retirement benefits are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. This legislation directs how a former servicemember’s retirement benefits should be divided after divorce.
A key element is that the former spouse must have been married to the former servicemember for a minimum of 10 years while the military member has served on active duty. It also grants healthcare benefits to some former spouses as well as access to military exchanges and commissaries.
It also governs how retirement pay may be disbursed when it comes to alimony or child support.
Although child support and spousal support are determined by Arkansas state guidelines, federal law dictates that these awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemembers pay and allowances.
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