Arkansas Divorce Recovery
Going through a divorce is never easy. Recovery from divorce is no picnic. The reason? Divorce is a legal process that has financial and emotional consequences. You will need to quickly get up to speed on issues such as uncontested divorce, child custody arrangements, choosing the right divorce forms, how to do your divorce yourself, annulment, divorce settlements, Parenting Plans and many more. Do not despair though - We believe we have you covered.
If you are divorcing and have kids, you're likely to be frantic about where the kids primary residence will be, how you are going to manage financially and if you will ever feel good again. Maybe your self-esteem is low. Perhaps you are anticipating a custody battle and are freaked out about the outcome. If you spend some time (and perhaps a few bucks), you can become an expert at child custody options so you won't be taken advantage of.
Whatever your composite nightmare is, there are solutions to it if you invest some time. Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing, but you needn't experience that. Take some time to explore the tabs above and to the left. It's going to be okay, but you must educate yourself.
- Legal Custody
- Child Support
- DIY Divorce
- Property Division
- Waiting Period
- Parenting Classes
Arkansas child custody gets determined with "the best interests of the child" considered first. The award of custody will be made without regard to the sex of a parent but solely in accordance with the welfare and best interest of the child.
The Family court will give you the opportunity to agree on a Custody Agreement, Visitation Schedule and a Parenting Plan. If you fail to reach agreement with your spouse, the court will get one out from a dusty drawer somewhere and force it on you...and you may not like it. The court has the ability to order joint custody, sole legal custody or most any type of custody it deems appropriate. Without your own agreement, you could be painted in a bad light and wind up hosed.
State child custody laws first assume that awarding joint custody is in the best interest of the child. The final decree of the court defines the rights and obligations of each parent. Living arrangements are often designated to the person that has been the primary caretaker of the child. Courts are charged with awarding child custody while disregarding the sex of a parent. While this seems encouraging for Dads, the statistics bear out that Mother's receive custody in better than 4 out of 5 disputed cases. Depending on the child's age and ability to reason, the court may consider the preferences of the children with respect to where the primary home (custody) should take place.
Concerned about custody and visitation issues in the future? Will your spouse try to take advantage of you? Get an online parenting plan and set up the calendar before you get divorced, and adjust it to the court ordered visitation schedule. If your ex knows it's online and you are documenting things, it's less likely you'll be constantly challenged. Click on the demo link to view the program.
In general, the parent that has provided the bulk of caring for the children of the marriage will likely be the custodial parent (with whom the kids spend the majority of the time). Exceptions to this are when that parent can be shown to be unfit, or the kids are old enough to choose where they wish to live (age 13-14 is usually the minimum age where they have their preferences considered).
Exchanging your child with your ex at your child's school
To avoid controversies from involving public school personnel and to avoid disruptions to the educational atmosphere in our public schools, the transfer of a child between the child's custodial parent and noncustodial parent, when both parents are present, is prohibited from taking place on the property of a public elementary or secondary school on normal school days during normal hours of school operations.
Noncustodial parent's right to the child's scholastic records
As long as the parent has been granted child visitation, that parent is entitled to and will receive a copy of the child's scholastic records upon request made to the school district or college.
Download Arkansas Divorce Forms
[Based on Arkansas Code 9-13-101]
A marriage annulment in Arkansas is a legal process of terminating or voiding an illegal marriage. The process is similar to a separation or dissolution (divorce) in that you must file a petition, serve your spouse, and prove grounds. Annulment requires a greater degree of proof than does a fault divorce. Grounds for an annulment include:
- Fraud - marrying another by fraud or misrepresentation is a felony and is a legal ground for annulment according to Arkansas annulment laws,
- Duress - a marriage where one was under duress is grounds for an annulment in Arkansas,
- Bigamy - Arkansas annulment laws specifically prohibit bigamy, and it is a legal annulment ground, and
- Consanguinity - one marrying another where they are too closely related is prohibited by Arkansas annulment laws.
How to File an Annulment in Arkansas
In order to file for an annulment and have a marriage declared null and void (declared a nullity), you must establish grounds for the petition to annul (see the grounds for annulment on this page). If the male was younger than 17 at the time of marriage, or the female was younger than 16, the marriage can be annulled. If parents or guardians are filing for an under-age annulment, they must prove they had received a court-awarded custody ruling. For all other filers for annulment, one must file a Domestic Relations Cover Sheet (which should detail your specific reasons or grounds) for an annulment request along with a Pleading form you can receive from the court clerk.
The Circuit Clerk in your county will be the person you file your papers with. Call for guidance before you go there.
Once you've filed for the annulment, you'll need to have your spouse served. Ask the clerk for guidance on how to find a process server. After you have served your spouse, and the spouse has have answered the petition (or ignored it) the court will advise the next steps you must take. The filing fee at this writing (Jan. 2011) is $100 but check with the court. Read more on annulment
[Based on Arkansas Code 9-12-subchapter1 and subchapter 2]
Arkansas divorce laws mandate that child support be calculated using the "Wisconsin model", or "Percentage of Obligor Income", a formula that examines the non-custodial's income and assigns an obligation based on a formula. Arkansas child support laws set forth that the income base will be the obligor's after-tax income.
Income is defined in Arkansas as any form of payment including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, workers' compensation, disability, payments pursuant to a pension or retirement program, and interest. That income will be reduced by any of the following:
- Federal and state income tax,
- Withholding for Social Security (FICA), Medicare, and railroad retirement
- Medical insurance paid for dependent children; and
- Presently paid support for other dependents by court order.
Calculating Arkansas child support:
The guidelines for which child support are calculated are designed for situations in which the obligor nets $6000 per month or less. The guidelines are as follows (percentages are of obligors net income):
1 child 20%, 2 children 25%, 3 children 30%, 4 children 35%, 5 children 40% and 6 or more children 40+%. Child support is expected to cover:
- Shelter and utilities,
- Medical expenses,
- Educational expenses,
- Dental expenses,
- Child care (includes nursery, baby sitting, day care or other expenses for supervision of children necessary for the custodial parent to work),
- Accustomed standard of living,
- Transportation expenses,
- Other income or assets available to support the child from whatever source.
Arkansas laws have established the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) for those parents needing assistance with collecting child support. You will need to complete and submit a written application through the Department of Human Services.
Child support payments are considered owed to the State of Arkansas
Once a court orders a specific amount and schedule for child support, state law considers that obligation to be owed to the State rather than the child's custodial parent or even the child. [Title 9- Subtitle 2- Chapter 14- Subchapter 2]. This gives the state broad powers to come after the parent required to pay support.
Changing the child support amount after the divorce has been finalized
A material change of circumstances in the payor's financial situation is required for a petition to change support amounts. State law requires that a material change (for modification) be an amount equal to or more than twenty percent (20%) or more than one hundred dollars ($100) per month of the payor's income or assets.
Support payments will be paid and received through the court
The courts have the discretion to award alimony in fixed payments for a specified period, subject to death or remarriage of the recipient. All orders requiring payments of money for the support and care of any children will direct the payments to be made through the registry of the court unless the court in its discretion determines that it would be in the best interest of the parties to direct otherwise.
Health care coverage
The noncustodial parent and his or her employer will be notified by mail that the parent has been directed to provide and maintain health care coverage for the benefit of a minor child. This order will be for income withholding for health care coverage, and will apply to current and subsequent periods of employment. [A.C.A. § 9-14-509 ]
[Based on Arkansas Code 9-12-312, 9-14-102, 9-14-106]
How To File For Divorce In Arkansas
Arkansas is not a no-fault divorce state. While this statement is technically correct, couples can file for divorce with proof that they have lived apart and separately for at least 18 months.
Arkansas is one of three states that allow couples to choose, before marriage, which divorce laws they wish to apply should the marriage end. If you had chosen a covenant marriage, you know that the rules are slightly different in that you’ve agreed to pre-marital counseling and limitation on the grounds and options available.
To begin the process, you’ll need to acquire the proper forms that get filed with the County Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court in the county you have lived in for at least 60 days prior to the filing. If you no longer live in Arkansas, you must file the paperwork in the county where your spouse currently lives.
You will need to complete and submit 1. Complaint for Divorce and 2. Decree of Divorce. Other forms that you will likely need to submit include Domestic Relations Case Cover Sheet, Affidavit of Corroborating Witness, Marital Settlement Agreement and the Affidavit of Financial Means. There are quite a few other forms that pertain to divorce, so your best option is to get a packet of forms that is all inclusive, and read each form to see if it applies to your situation. The simplest way to acquire these forms is to download a Combo Packet of your state's divorce forms and determine which forms are necessary for your particular needs.
There are no forms available on-line from the State of Arkansas. Sometimes individual counties make forms available. We have found that the effort to drive to the courthouse, the parking hassles (do they charge you for parking?), standing in lines and hoping you get all the free forms you may need is a greater effort than downloading all forms for $45.00.
Worried about the prospect of custody battles in your future? Want to know how to win a child custody battle? Don't be blind sided by your ex. Learn the facts by owning a complete Child Custody Library on the best strategies for winning or keeping child custody.
What forms will I need?
- Petition for Divorce - gives the court jurisdiction over your divorce,
- Notice of Hearing - the clerk of court uses this to set the date for the judge to hear your case,
- Certificate of Corroborating Witness - states that you are eligible to file for divorce within a certain,
- Financial Affidavit - details the financial agreements that you and your spouse have decided,
- Settlement Agreement - details the specific terms of your divorce, such as child custody and visitation,
- Divorce Judgment or Decree - the judge finalizes your divorce with this. You must ask for a certified copy.
You must file the Complaint for Divorce along with a Summons. After filing, you must have your spouse served with the paperwork. Call the the County Clerk for guidance on who you may choose to serve the divorce papers (process servers, Sheriff, etc) on your spouse. Your spouse must respond to the service to avoid a default judgment in your favor.
If you and your spouse are in general agreement on the terms of your divorce, the Divorce Settlement Agreement document should be your main focus. In that document, you’ll both outline every issue in your marriage and how you wish to resolve those issues.
Issues typically included in the Settlement Agreement include property and debt division, child custody and child support, a co-parenting schedule (visitation) and any spousal support (alimony). If you are really smart, you create a flexible Parenting Plan that will stand up to the test of time and the changes that take place in yours and your children’s lives, and make that parenting plan a part of the Settlement Agreement.
You’ll submit a paper copy of the Parenting Plan, but you need not keep it in paper form. We suggest you keep your Parenting Plan on-line so that you can easily make changes, be able to view a forward calendar of activities, and not be forced to change and reprint the hard copy plan each time activities change.
Go to About.com, which has free parenting plan worksheets available. Download those forms, and enter the data that will make up your parenting plan. Transfer the data into an on-line parenting plan software program, and once completed, print the plan and include it as a part of your Settlement Agreement.
As your lives and activities change, an on-line plan will be simple to update, your ex will have immediate access, and you’ll be able to track the time kids spend with each parent, the expenses each parent incurs, or print the records should a child support or custody modification be necessary down the road. Some couples agree that any changes must be agreed upon and then entered into the on-line plan, and if it ain't on the plan, it ain't happening.
Once you’ve completed your initial divorce forms submission, and if your spouse is in agreement, the judge can accept the filing and issue a decree of divorce, or, schedule a hearing to resolve issues the court needs resolved. The County Clerk’s office will advise you what steps are necessary after your filing (and after your spouse’s response has been recorded), and after the waiting period. (A three-month waiting period following your filing is required by law).
The single best effort you can make to protect your children’s future is to keep accurate records of your children’s schedules and activities. An on-line parenting plan, with its calendar and ability to keep accurate notes, will perfectly state your case should you find yourself back in court down the road.
A party may ask the court to issue temporary orders that rules on issues like child support, custody, and visitation. To do this, the court will often schedule a hearing to gather additional information with which to base a decision on.
Covenant marriages dissolved
If yours is a covenant marriage, you must both agree to counseling prior to a divorce. Grounds for an Arkansas divorce are more limited under a covenant marriage, permitting only domestic violence, adultery or felony conviction as grounds. Covenant marriage dissolutions require living separately for at least two years (2 1/2 years apart if minor children are involved) prior to the divorce.
How long does the process take?
After a 30 day waiting period, and after resolving all issues legally necessary (assets division, child care, support, etc), the judge will issue an Arkansas divorce decree, which will detail the rights and responsibilities of the parties, and will legally end the marriage.
See our discussion on Do-It-Yourself Divorce
Legal Separation - Marital Separation
A legal separation results when a couple separates and a court rules on the child support, custody, alimony, visitation and division of property, but doesn't grant a divorce. With a legal separation (sometimes called a marital separation), any assets accumulated or debts incurred after a finalized legal separation are no longer considered jointly owned. A specific legal process is necessary for a legal separation to be effected. Specifically a Settlement Agreement must be submitted to a court, addressing all support, custody, visitation and asset issues between the couple.
A legal separation is a court order that details who gets the children, who pays support for the children and how much, whether spousal support (alimony) is ordered, and who gets what marital property and debt. You might want a legal separation if your religious beliefs prohibit divorce, if you or your spouse have not lived in Arkansas long enough to file for divorce, or if one of you needs to be covered by the other's medical insurance. A legal separation costs about the same as a divorce. Filing for legal separation does not prevent a divorce from being filed, however.
You can keep the benefits and get rid of the bad stuff...
The main difference between dissolution of marriage (divorce) and legal separation proceedings is that after a judgment of separation the parties remain married for nearly all purposes including eligibility for health and life insurance. You may realize that we all need some help processing all this angst. The help can come in the form of friends, relatives or professionals.
[Based on Arkansas Code 9-12]
Divorce Settlement - Dividing Marital Assets
Arkanasas is an equitable distribution state, meaning marital property will be divided 50/50 between the parties unless the court finds that percentage to be inequitable. The court will afford you the opportunity to fashion a divorce settlement with your spouse, which would divide your property and debt. It would include a Parenting Plan if you have kids from the marriage.
If you cannot reach a settlement with your spouse, one will be imposed upon you by the court. All marital property will be distributed one-half to each party unless the court finds such a division to be inequitable. In that event the court shall make some other division that the court deems equitable taking into consideration:
- Age, health, and station in life of the parties,
- The length of the marriage,
- Occupation of the parties,
- Amount and sources of income,
- Vocational skills,
- Needs of each party and opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income,
- Contribution of each party in acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of marital property, including services as a homemaker; and
- The federal income tax consequences of the court's division of property.
Non-marital property that generally doesn't get divided. That includes:
- Property acquired prior to marriage or by gift or inheritance,
- Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent,
- Property acquired by a spouse after legal separation,
- Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties,
- The increase in value of property acquired prior to marriage or by gift or inheritance,
- Benefits received or to be received from a workers' compensation claim, personal injury claim, or social security claim when those benefits are for any degree of permanent disability or future medical expenses,
- Income from property owned prior to the marriage or from property acquired by gift or by inheritance.
The court, in its effort to divide marital assets, will sometimes order assets sold at auction, and the proceeds divided between the parties.
|Worried about a custody battle? Don't be blind sided by your ex. Learn the facts by owning a complete Child Custody Library on the best strategies for winning or keeping child custody.|
Lock up the assets
If you think your spouse might try to hide assets, or spend them, we suggest you file a petition for a financial temporary restraining order. This order prevents liquidating assets or spending money beyond the basic necessities of daily living. You might first consider allocating enough funds to see yourself through, because the restraining order will apply to you too.
Non-marital assets will be returned to who owned it prior to the marriage. When stocks, bonds, or other securities issued by a corporation, association, or government entity make up part of the marital property, the court will designate in its final order or judgment the specific property in securities to which each party is entitled. The court is not required to address the division of property at the time a divorce decree is entered if either party is involved in a bankruptcy proceeding.
[Based on Arkansas Code 9-12-315]
Alimony - Spousal Support - Maintenance
In Arkansas, alimony can be ordered on a temporary basis during divorce proceedings (Pendente Lite), and can order alimony for a temporary or permanent period of time after the divorce is final.
Before the final decree is issued, the court will make orders concerning the alimony of the wife or the husband and the care of the children, if there are any. Alimony will automatically cease in Arkansas if any of the following occur:
- The date of the remarriage of the person who was awarded the alimony; or
- The establishment of a relationship that produces a child or children and results in a court order directing another person to pay support to the recipient of alimony, which circumstances would be considered the equivalent of remarriage; or
- The establishment of a relationship that produces a child or children and results in a court order directing the recipient of alimony to provide support of another person who is not a descendant by birth or adoption of the payer of the alimony, which circumstances will be considered the equivalent of remarriage.
Arkansas family courts use spousal support chart provided by law. By law, that chart must be revised every (4) years. Child support typically terminates at the child's 18th birthday, but can be extended if the child's age of majority occurs before high school graduation. Should a child have a disability, child support can be extended.
[Based on Arkansas Code Title 9, 9-14-sub1 to sub 109]
Child Visitation With The Non-Custodial Parent
During the separation or divorce process, the parents are afforded the opportunity to complete an Arkansas parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval. If they are unable to fully agree, the court will impose its judgment on the care for the children.
Get the Parenting Plan done ASAP. You won't like the court's plan
Typically that will involve every other weekend, a weekday evening visit that doesn't include an overnight, alternating holidays, Mother's and Father's Days, and a number of weeks in the summer. Make sure you have specific details about who picks up and drops off, at what time, the right of first refusal if the custodian needs a sitter, etc. Determine the conditions of birthdays, how they'll be celebrated and who is able to do what. The more you have in the decree, the less you'll argue over. Be aware that you have to guide your side of the divorce. Don't rely that your attorney will think of everything. You set the course; your lawyer navigates.
Typical considerations by the court will be alternate weekend visitation (3-day weekends included), mid-week visitation, sharing of the children during periods of school recess -winter, spring and summer, New Year's Eve, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with one parent or the other in alternate years, Father's Day with Father, Mother's Day with Mother, alternate years on the children's birthdays, and open communication by phone and computer.
Be aware that you have to guide your side of the divorce. If you get versed in Kansas divorce laws and you get an agreement to a Child Custody Agreement in place, you stand a much better chance of getting what you need from the divorce. Don't rely that your attorney will think of everything. You set the course; your lawyer navigates.
You cannot meet your ex at your child's school
State law (Title 9-Section 13-104) prohibits exchanging your child (one parent hands off the child to the other) on school grounds. This is specific to when your child is in the care of one parent and the other parent is to take over custodial care. Lawmakers created this prohibition to avoid disruptive events at your child's school. One parent dropping off and the other picking up at prearranged times and days if prearranged with the school's Principal, is allowed.
Your child's scholastic records
The non-custodial parent who has been awarded visitation rights is entitled to a copy of the current scholastic records of the child. The request must be made directly to the school district or college your child attends. The custodial parent is not responsible for providing said copies to the other parent.
Your child's preference for which parent he/she wishes to live with is recognized by the court
The circuit court may consider the preferences of the child if the child is of a sufficient age and capacity to reason, regardless of chronological age. [A.C.A. § 9-13-108]
Worried about a custody battle? Don't be blind sided by your ex. Learn the facts by owning a complete Child Custody Library on the best strategies for winning or keeping child custody.
[Based on Arkansas Code Title 9, 9-13-101 to 9-12-110]
Grounds For Divorce
If you are seeking to dissolve a covenant marriage, you are required to state that request in your petition. The circuit court can grant a separation or divorce for the following causes (grounds for divorce):
- Either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is impotent,
- Conviction of a felony or other infamous crime,
- Demonstrated an addiction to habitual drunkenness for one (1) year, will be guilty of such cruel and barbarous treatment as to endanger the life of the other, or will offer such indignities to the person of the other as will render his or her condition intolerable,
- Commit adultery after the marriage occurs,
- The court will grant a divorce if the parties have lived separately for 18 continuous months, regardless of fault or cause by either spouse,
- When one party has lived apart from the other because of insanity, for three years or more. Should one of the parties be deemed insane, the other spouse will be required to care for and financially maintain that person for the duration of the insane person's life and,
- Should the service of process be considered on the insane spouse, the petitioner is required to make service to a recognized guardian, guardian ad litem, or institution charged with that person's care.
Don't confuse grounds for divorce with the annulment process in this state. See the annulment section on this page for the differences.
[Based on Arkansas Code 9-12-301]
You Must Be A Resident Of This State To File For Separation Or Divorce
One spouse must have resided in Arkansas for at least six months immediately preceding a filing. On the condition that the residency requirement has been met by one spouse, either the resident or non-resident may file in Arkansas. Note that this is not the norm for all states. Most jurisdictions require proof of residency to file in that jurisdiction.
[Based on Arkansas Code 9-12-301]
Using A Mediator To Resolve Differences
Mediation can be an effective tool to solve differences that parties would like to be settled without a court battle, although it is not mandatory. State law does not order the parties to marriage counseling, although marriage counseling can be very constructive for some couples. When the parties to a divorce action have minor children residing with one or both parents, the court, prior to or after entering a decree of divorce, may require the parties to:
- Complete at least two hours of classes concerning parenting issues faced by divorced parents Submit to mediation in regard to addressing parenting, custody, and visitation issues.
- Submit to mediation in regard to addressing parenting, custody, and visitation issues.
[Based on Arkansas Code 9-12-322]
Grandparents Rights For Visitation
A grandparent or great-grandparent may petition a circuit court of this state for reasonable visitation rights with respect to his or her grandchild or grandchildren or great-grandchild or great-grandchildren under this section if:
- The marital relationship between the parents of the child has been severed by death, divorce, or legal separation,
- The child is illegitimate and the petitioner is a maternal grandparent of the illegitimate child, or
- The child is illegitimate, the petitioner is a paternal grandparent of the illegitimate child, and paternity has been established by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Grands and great-grands may petition for visitation if the parents marital relationship has ended due to death, divorce or legal separation; or if the child is in the custody or under the guardianship of a person other than a natural or adoptive parent, or if the child was born out of wedlock. Should the child have been out of wedlock, the grands may petition for visitation only if paternity has been established.
Grandparents right to be heard and petition for visitation
A grandparent is entitled to be notified and be heard in any child custody proceeding involving a grandchild older than 12 months when:
- the grandchild lived with the grandparent continuously for at least one continuous year regardless of age,
- the grandparent was the primary caregiver to and financial supporter of the grandchild during the time the grandchild lived with the grandparent,
- the continuous one year or more of residence occurred within one year of the date the child custody proceeding was initiated.
[Based on Arkansas Code Title 9, Subtitle 2, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1, 103, 322]
Your divorce is final only after both a docket entry and a final decree have been entered. There are no restrictions against remarriage following a divorce decree.
If you live separately from your spouse for at least 12 months, you can petition the court for a quick divorce (within 30 days of filing) if you both are in total agreement on all issues. Otherwise, no divorce may be granted within that 30 day period after filing.
Parents that are divorcing are required to either complete a parenting course/parenting class or undergo mediation to resolve parenting, custody and visitation issues according to Arkansas State Code, Statute § 9-12-322. Certificates of completion are issued that must be presented to the court. Options for taking these classes in Arkansas include:
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A Word On Your Journey Toward Healing And Recovery ...
At some point in the process, you will likely discover that you will not be able to manage the divorce recovery all by yourself. If you are a man, you are apt to bury the hurt and anguish and force yourself to Move On. However, unresolved feelings are just that- unresolved, and are likely to become issues later on. If you are a woman, you will feel the process more, and likely will experience a feeling of loss while feeling lost. We recommend you spend time discovering why things worked out as they did, so that you grow with the new knowledge. We offer a myriad of tools that can get you to the other side. The more you learn, the less you fear. Trust us on this. Spend some time and a few bucks and the return will be ten-fold.