With the exception of very brief unions involving scant property, dissolving most marriages is a complicated procedure, with legalities varying greatly according to your state. Here is a general synopsis for Arkansas.
Do You Require an Attorney?
While many people are capable of completing paperwork necessary to obtain a simple divorce, it is advisable to consult a legal professional for review of the documents and to ensure that important issues receive adequate attention.
Options Other Than Divorce
Arkansas law provides possibilities other than dissolution. An annulment is an alternative if the couple has no children. This option declares that the marriage never existed and may be desirable for religious purposes if either party's church opposes divorce. Couples also can negotiate legally binding separation agreements as temporary or permanent solutions.
Grounds for Divorce
When filing for divorce, the petitioning spouse must have resided in Arkansas for 60 days and must cite the circumstances for dissolving the marriage. The most common grounds for divorce are a separation exceeding 18 months or "general indignities," which include malignant ridicule, haughtiness, or incivility. Habitual drunkenness, cruel and barbarous treatment, and adultery are other justifications in Arkansas for dissolution. For couples joined under covenant marriage law, marital counseling and two-year separations are requirements to dissolve the union.
If the respondent does not contest the dissolution, the conditions in the petitioning spouse's filing will stand as requested. Often couples are amenable to proceeding under this method, which lowers legal expenses and emotional distress as it increases efficiency. Final divorce decrees can be issued in uncontested divorces in as little as 31 days.
Should the respondent contest all or portions of the dissolution, the parties still are permitted to formulate agreements on the uncontested issues before trial through negotiation or mediation. Mediation is more economical than a trial and safer than risking the possibility of an unsatisfactory ruling.
Major grievances in marital dissolutions include property, custody, and support issues. For spouses with minimal assets and amicable parenting arrangements, a simple order can dispense with many issues. For complicated or contentious cases, separate filings often become necessary. If there is urgency involved in any issue— for example, if the custodial parent finds support necessary in order to adequately provide for children—an attorney can request a temporary order. People who fear an estranged spouse can ask for orders of protection.
Property and Debts
In equitable distribution states such as Arkansas, marital property and debt are divided fairly, but not necessarily allocated evenly. Not every asset is marital property. Property obtained before the marriage or bestowed as an individual gift during the relationship is separate property not subject to distribution in the divorce.
Custody and Support
Some parents easily formulate agreements governing shared custody and visitation. Others require mediation to achieve resolution or need a judge to decide. The Arkansas standard for deciding custody issues is what is in the best interests of the child.
Child and spousal support are independent issues, with child support requirements outlined in state guidelines. Both types of support have tax ramifications. Child support is not taxable to the individual receiving it, while spousal support is. Other tax implications of divorce include determining filing status and dependents.
Medical expenses often become major controversies in dissolutions. Issues include how long one spouse must provide insurance for the other, as well as for any children, and who has the responsibility for payment of non-covered expenses.
The divorce becomes final after the judge signs the decree. Women may retain their married surname, though if they want to use another name, the final decree can incorporate that request. If either party later grows dissatisfied with a requirement in any order concerning the case, he or she is allowed to return to court and request a modification.
Consult a Divorce Lawyer
This article is a very general overview of Arkansas divorce law. For specific questions, consult a local attorney.
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