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10 important things to know about filing a divorce

LEGAL REASONS FOR DIVORCE:divorce4

Arkansas law requires at least one ground to be stated for filing a divorce. The most commonly used ground is either general indignities or separation for 18 months or longer. However, there are other grounds for divorce. Those reasons include: one spouse was or is impotent; one spouse was convicted of a felony crime; one spouse is addicted to habitual drunkenness for at least a year; one spouse is guilty of such cruel and barbarous treatment that endangers the life of the other; one spouse makes the other’s life intolerable; or when either party commits adultery after they marry.

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS:

A divorce in Arkansas can be filed by either spouse to end the marital relationship. There is a $165 filing fee to file a divorce case. State law does not allow this fee to be refunded if the case is dismissed.

After the completion of a divorce, the parties are restored back to single status. The court will also issue any necessary orders for child support and custody, alimony and the division of assets and debts.

A least one party must have lived in Arkansas for a minimum of 60 days to file for divorce.  State law requires the divorce proceedings must be filed in the county where the person filing for divorce resides.  If the court discovers neither party lives in the state or county where the divorce is filed, the judge will determine the court does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case, and  it will not be accepted, or it will  be dismissed.

RESTORING A WOMAN’S PREVIOUS NAME:divorce6

When the court grants a divorce, the judge may, if requested, restore the last name the wife had before the marriage. This is usually done in the order the judge signs granting the divorce. Once that divorce decree is signed and filed with the circuit clerk, the divorce case is considered closed. If the woman wants to come back later and have the judge restore her previous name, there is a $50 fee to reopen the case.

PREVIOUS MARRIAGES IN ARKANSAS:

If you were previously married, you will need to show your divorce decree, or have information about the previous spouse’s death including date, county and state where the death occurred. If your name has changed, you need to bring a certified copy of your divorce. If the divorce was granted in Saline County, a certified copy of that decree is available from the Saline County Circuit Clerk's Office for a $5 fee.

COVENANT MARRIAGE DIVORCE REQUIREMENTS:

Under the Arkansas Covenant Marriage Act of 2001, if you are seeking a divorce and have a covenant marriage, divorce can only be granted if there is proof of at least one of the following:

The other spouse has committed adultery.

The other spouse has committed a felony crime.

The other spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the divorce or a child of one of the spouses.

The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of two years; or the spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of two years from the date the judgment of judicial separation was signed; or if there is a minor child or children of the marriage, the spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of two years and six months from the date the judgment of judicial separation was signed.

However, if abuse of a child of the marriage or abuse of a  child of one of the spouses is the basis for which the judgment of judicial separation was obtained, then a judgment of divorce may be obtained if the spouses have been living separately without reconciliation for a period of one year from the date the judgment of judicial separation was signed.

ANNULMENT OR DIVORCE:

An annulment is sought in order to nullify the marriage and disavow its existence. An annulment returns the parties to their prior single status, as if they never married. Annulments are most often sought by people who feel stigmatized by the status of being divorced, or for ease of remarriage in some religions. If there are children born of the marriage, an annulment may not be granted, and the marriage may only be dissolved by divorce in Arkansas.

MARITAL OR NON-MARITAL PROPERTY?

The courts have no authority over non–marital property. So, the first thing the court has to do is determine if there is judicial authority over property. Generally speaking, all property acquired by either spouse before the marriage is considered non–marital property. All property acquired after the marriage is considered property of the marriage or marital property. If the property is marital property then the court must “equitably” divide the property.

MILITARY PROTECTION FROM DIVORCE PROCEEDING:

There are federal laws that protect active duty military members against being held in "default" from failing to respond to a divorce action. These laws were enacted to protect active military from being divorced without knowing it. Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, the divorce proceeding may be postponed for the entire time the active service member is on duty and for up to 60 days after returning from active duty. This right to have the divorce proceedings postponed can be waived by any active duty member should he or she wish to get the divorce.

CASE NUMBERS:

When a divorce is filed, it is given a case number and assigned to a division of court in Saline County. Divorces are domestic relations cases and are assigned a case number that starts with DR followed by the year it is filed. Each case is assigned a number based on how many cases have been filed at that point in the year. This means the first case filed in 2012 will be DR2012-1. When calling the circuit clerk’s office with questions regarding a divorce, it is helpful to have the case number. This allows quicker service to the public.

WAITING PERIOD FOR A DIVORCE:

If the divorce is uncontested, there is a 30-day waiting period between the time the divorce complaint is filed with the circuit clerk and when the divorce decree can be submitted for the judge to sign. The decree can be submitted on the 31st day after the divorce is filed. It is important to remember that filing the divorce suit itself does not grant a divorce. The order for the judge to sign must be filed, signed by the judge and filed in the circuit clerk’s office for a divorce to be final. Missing ANY of these steps means you are not divorced!