Divorce in Arkansas: The divorce process is an orderly in which there is no set amount or type of steps involved. Because of the unique factors that each individual may have involved, providing a single all-encompassing checklist is very difficult.
The process itself is almost never easy or unemotional and it does take some knowledge of both the laws and each part of the process to have a fully successful outcome.
Before proceeding with any divorce in Arkansas, both individuals involved in the divorce should first work out all of the issues surrounding the divorce, as an uncontested case is always the best option.
Almost all legal resources recommend hiring an attorney, but in an uncontested case, an attorney may not be needed. In Arkansas, there is only one no-fault or uncontested ground for divorce, which is living separate and apart for 18 months.
Before beginning the process, involved spouses should familiarize themselves with by compiling a variety of legal resources.
At a minimum, Title 9, Family Law, Chapter 12, Divorce and Annulment, and the various sections within chapter 12 of the Arkansas divorce Code should be reviewed to ensure at least some understanding of the statutes is in place for an Arkansas divorce.
In addition to the law itself, the divorcing spouses should review all of the information available at the Arkansas Judiciary’s website to include the court processes, procedures of the court, and review the few forms available online.
Finally, both spouses should contact the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the divorce is taking place in order to ensure they meet all local requirements.
This is necessary because many counties have their own unique requirements. This is especially important for those seeking to file pro se, or without the representation of an attorney.
The following steps outline the process for divorce in Arkansas. These steps hold true for both a contested and uncontested case.
The only difference between the two cases comes into play in the steps involving the court hearing. In a contested case, a court will have to decide whatever issues are not in agreement.
Step 1. Each case begins with the plaintiff (referred to in statutes as a complainant) filing the complaint, summons, and applicable cover sheet which asks the court to grant an order for a divorce.
Step 2. File the forms with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the appropriate county. As long as either the plaintiff or the defendant has resided in a particular county for more than 60 days, the divorce can be filed in that county.
Step 3. Copies of the filed paperwork must be served to the defendant. In an uncontested in Arkansas, this usually involves the plaintiff serving the papers. In a contested case, service is processed through a process server, the sheriff’s department, or done through publication.
Step 4. If the spouse provided an answer agreeing with every stipulation listed in the initial Complaint, then the case will continue in an uncontested format. If the spouse provided an answer disagreeing with anything, then the case is considered contested and an attorney should be engaged and/or mediation may be the next step.
Step 5. Once notice of the final hearing has been received from the clerk’s office, the spouses can prepare for the hearing. In cases involving children, both parents must attend a parenting education course and provide the court with proof of completion.
Step 6. The next step is to prepare for the divorce hearing by completing the final divorce decree. It may be necessary to bring someone to testify at the hearing to prove the cited ground or grounds for divorce. In an uncontested divorce in Arkansas this would be to prove that both individuals have lived separate and apart for 18 months.
Step 7. At the hearing, all submitted paperwork is reviewed and if everything is in order, the judge will sign the decree making the divorce final and both parties can move on with their lives. When the case is contested, a trial may be necessary in order for a court to rule on any contested issue.
The above steps outline the general process of getting a divorce in Arkansas. Steps such as discovery, temporary orders, pre-trial conferences, and settlement conferences were omitted, as not all of those are necessary in every case.
Additionally, at some point during the middle stages of the process, even in an uncontested divorce in Arkansas involving children, both people must provide to the court and exchange with each other a financial affidavit laying out all finances so the court can determine child support allocations.