File for divorce in Arkansas comes with it the emotional and practical issues that follow the process of ending a marriage. Getting a divorce in Arkansas necessitates navigating the legal system. While this may appear to be a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be, especially if you and your ex-partner can work together.
This complete guide contains everything you need to know to begin your Arkansas divorce.
How to File for Divorce in Arkansas
Even if your divorce case is uncontested, a judge in Arkansas will not grant a final divorce until the petition has been filed for at least 30 days. According on the judge designated to your matter, you might not be required to attend a court hearing to complete an uncontested divorce. Some judges will let you submit an affidavit to prove your residency and separation.
As a result, you should contact the judge’s or court clerk’s office to determine the policy that will apply to your case. Even if you are required to appear, the hearing will usually be brief. If all is in order, the judge will grant your divorce and include any settlement agreement in the final divorce judgement.
If your case is contested and you are unable to resolve all of your issues at some point during the process, a trial will be held. A court will make a ruling on the remaining problems i.e. the unresolved issues after hearing testimony. This is by far the most time-consuming and expensive route to obtaining a divorce judgement, and it can take a year or more. As a result, the vast majority of cases settle before going to trial.
Here is the process for filing for divorce in Arkansas:
File the Divorce Forms
The first step in starting the legal divorce process is gathering the necessary forms. Arkansas Legal Aid offers an interactive questionnaire that will generate the documents you need to file to get a divorce in Arkansas — but only if you don’t have children and have a limited amount of property.
For more complicated divorces, you may be able to obtain the necessary forms from the clerk of the court in the state where you plan to register your divorce. You might also utilise an Arkansas divorce form provided by an online divorce provider.
If you initiate the divorce, you will fill out the forms as the “plaintiff.” Your spouse will then be referred to as the “defendant.” You must file a divorce complaint along with the three cover sheets if you and your spouse have minor children: the Confidential Information Sheet, Domestic relations cover and a Child Support Worksheet.
Right Reasons for Divorce
In Arkansas, as in all states, you must have a legally accepted reason (or “grounds”) for divorce. Generally, the state accepts divorce petitions based on a partner’s misconduct (such as adultery, habitual inebriation, felony conviction, or cruelty that endangers the other spouse’s life).
Pursuing a fault-based divorce necessitates proving the misconduct occurred which takes a lot of time, money, and anxiety, and it is likely to provide your spouse with an incentive to fight the divorce.
Arkansas allows for “no-fault” divorce (meaning neither spouse is accusing the other of misconduct). In contrast to most states, Arkansas does not allow you to simply announce that you and your partner have “intractable disagreements” or that your relationship has ended completely. Instead, you and your partner must have stayed apart for a long time (without sex). The mandatory separation period is at least 18 months unless you have a “covenant marriage.”
You’ll need to show proof of residence, as well and other corroborating evidence to demonstrate that you’ve met the separation requirement.
The grounds for divorce and the minimum separation period for a no-fault divorce differ for couples who have entered into a covenant marriage in Arkansas. If you’re not sure if you have a covenant marriage, you most likely don’t.
These marriages are uncommon, and you must have met special requirements before receiving your marriage licences, such as filing a statement of intent and an affidavit that you received a specific type of premarital counselling.
If you are able to file for an uncontested divorce in Arkansas, the entire process will be much easier, faster, and less expensive than a traditional contested divorce.
Grounds for a Divorce in Arkansas
If you are able to file for an uncontested divorce in Arkansas, the entire process will be much advantageous and economical than a traditional contested divorce. However, for a divorce to be truly uncontested, you and your spouse must have reached an agreement on all marital issues, including:
- Property and debt partition
- Spousal support
- In case of a minor child, child support and custody
After these issues are resolved, the settlement terms are drafted into a marital settlement agreement, which can then become a part of your divorce judgement.
Another advantage of an uncontested divorce in Arkansas is that you can simply have a witness sign an affidavit (sworn statement) to prove your residency or separation, which you can then present to the court.
Serve the Divorce Papers
After you’ve finished filling out and signing the forms, you need to file the divorce paperwork with the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the country you live. If you are not an Arkansas resident, file the papers in the state where your partner resides. You can file your divorce papers electronically in some circuit courts in Alabama using the state’s eFlex system. To sign up for the system, you must pay a registration fee.
The court clerk will issue you a summons when you file your divorce papers. The summons along with your divorce papers must then be served on your partner. You can accomplish this by employing one of the following methods:
- First-class postage: You can mail the divorce papers to your spouse using the postal Service, together with two copies of a Form for Notice and Acknowledgement of Service by Mail and a stamped envelope with your return address. Your spouse should sign the acknowledgement and return it to you via mail.
- Commercial delivery service: The judge must sanction it, and a signature is necessary at the time of delivery. You should resubmit the divorce petition if the postal carrier or delivery person writes an affidavit declaring that your partner refused to receive them via regular mail, along with a notice that the judge may enter a default divorce judgement without your spouse’s participation.
You should be aware that the court clerk will charge you a fee for filing the divorce papers. As of 2022, the basic filing fee was $165 (or $185 if you filed electronically). However, it is always subject to change, so confirm the current fee ahead of time.
If you are unable to pay, you may petition the court for a fee waiver in your case by filing a “Petition for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis” and supporting documents. Based on the facts you provide related to your income, assets, and debts, the court will assess whether you qualify for a waiver.
Respond to Divorce Papers
Normally, a defendant’s spouse has 30 days after being served with the divorce complaint to respond. Typically, your spouse will file an “answer” in which he or she accepts or opposes the complainant’s assertions or requests.
If you haven’t received your spouse’s acknowledgement of service within 20 days of mailing the package, you’ll have to pay for the paperwork to be delivered to your partner by the sheriff’s office or another judicially process server. However, unless there was a good reason for not returning the acknowledgement of service within the required period, the judge will order your partner to pay the cost.
If you are unable to locate your spouse to serve the divorce papers, ask the court clerk about other methods of service, for example through newspaper publication, etc. It is critical to remember that if you do not serve your spouse within 120 days of filing the divorce complaint and there is no good reason for the delay, the court will dismiss your case.
File Financial Statements
You must file an Affidavit of Financial Means with the court in any divorce involving family support (such as child support). This document requires you to provide a large amount of information about your income and assets, as well as attach documentation to back up your figures.
It’s a fine decision to acquire as much of this information in advance because you must thoroughly fill out this form. If a spouse fails to report all accounts, debts, or assets, he or she may be subject to fines and possibly jail time, so honesty is essential.
Go Through Custody Mediation or Parenting Education
If the judge deems it appropriate in your case, the judge may order you and your spouse to do one of the following:
- Complete at least two hours of parenting classes for divorced parents, or
- Participate in custody mediation, including parenting and visitation.
How to File for Divorce in Arkansas Without a Lawyer
If you have a settlement agreement, you should be able to file for divorce on your own. A do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce will be the most cost-effective way to end your marriage, but you need to make sure you have all of the relevant documents, filled them out correctly, and followed all of the stages and criteria for separation in Arkansas. This will take some time and precision.
Other than hiring an attorney to represent you in the divorce, there are other options for getting assistance with the process. You could, for example, do one or more of the following:
- If you want the benefits of an uncontested divorce but are having difficulty reaching an agreement with your partner on some issues, concilitiation and mediation may help you work through the unresolved problems and reach a mutually conclusive agreement.
- You can file for divorce online by using a service that will send you completed forms and walk you through the process. However, most online divorce services require that you have an uncontested divorce.
- Even if you opt for a do-it-yourself or online divorce, you should consult with a lawyer if you have questions or want an independent legal review of your settlement agreement.
If you can’t reach an agreement, you’ll have to file for a traditional contested divorce. Because this will almost certainly necessitate hiring a lawyer — who will handle the forms, filing, and all other legal matters during the divorce — the information provided here focuses primarily on the filing process for people handling their own divorce.
Here are some prevalent questions regarding this topic.
– Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First in Arkansas?
No, it makes no difference who files for divorce first. As part of the divorce process, you will have the opportunity to deny your spouse’s claims and make your own requests. The spouse who files for divorce must state a “ground,” or reason, for the divorce.
In Arkansas, you can get a fault or no-fault divorce. It can be stated that you and your partner don’t agree to a no-fault divorce petition without providing a specific reason for the divorce. Although Arkansas recognises “fault” divorces, Arkansas divorce laws also allow couples to divorce on the grounds of separation without fault.
– How Much Does It Cost to File for a Divorce in Arkansas?
When you file a petition for divorce in Arkansas, you must pay a filing fee of approximately $165, though fees may vary by county. For the most up-to-date information, contact your local court.
There are additional divorce costs such as a $10 notary fee and up to $50 for a process server or sheriff to deliver the divorce petition to your partner. Additionally, you may be required to pay additional filing fees each time you submit additional motions or legal paperwork to the court.
To obtain an Arkansas divorce, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 60 days prior to filing the initial divorce papers.
To demonstrate that you meet these residency requirements, you must provide supporting documentation.
- The first step in starting the legal divorce process is gathering the necessary forms. Arkansas Legal Aid offers an interactive questionnaire that will generate the documents you need to file for divorce.
- After you’ve finished filling out and signing the forms, you need to file the divorce paperwork with the Circuit Court Clerk’s office in the country you live. If you are not an Arkansas resident, file the papers in the state where your partner resides.
- Arkansas allows for “no-fault” divorce (meaning neither spouse is accusing the other of misconduct). In contrast to most states, Arkansas does not allow you to simply announce that you and your partner have “intractable disagreements” or that your relationship has ended completely.
- If you can’t reach an agreement, you’ll have to file for a traditional contested divorce. This will almost certainly necessitate hiring a lawyer who will handle the forms, filing, and all other legal matters during the divorce.
We hope that you can now confidently file for divorce in Arkansas by following the steps mentioned in this guide.
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