When some couples decide to separate, they manage to do so without much infighting. The idea of anuncontested divorce arose out of the idea that couples who do not need to fight should not have to sufferthrough the same legal formalities as couples that contest their divorce filings. If you believe that you and yourspouse may be able to agree to an uncontested divorce, that option is available to you.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Arkansas uncontested divorce law. Ifyou still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Arkansas Defined
Unlike many states, Arkansas does not have a specific mechanism that allows couples to seek an uncontested divorce. Instead, couples filing for divorce under Arkansas law must file for divorce normally. Upon the filing of a marital property settlement agreement, however, the divorce will become categorized by the court as an uncontested divorce. This process is commonly known as “divorce by agreement.”
Under a divorce by agreement, the couple seeking a divorce must agree on each issue involved in the divorce. In a normal contested divorce, a judge would have to hear evidence and rule on each issue. In an uncontested divorce, however, the parties set the terms for the divorce and the judge merely approves the settlement. This process is not only substantially faster than seeking a contested divorce, but it also tends to be less expensive due to the reduced amount of time in court.
Requirements for Seeking a Arkansas Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Arkansas, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Anyquestions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Arkansas divorce attorney or family lawyer.
Spouses seeking an uncontested divorce in Arkansas must first meet the Arkansas divorce residency requirement. Prior to filing for divorce, at least one spouse must have lived within the state of Arkansas for at least sixty days.1
The spouses must also prove that sufficient grounds exist for them to seek a divorce under Arkansas law.2 There are five at fault grounds. The at-fault grounds are primarily intended for use in contested divorce cases, but they may be used in uncontested divorce cases as well because the spouses do not need to produce corroborating evidence proving the at-fault ground.3 That said, the facts alleged in the divorce complaint must actually be true, as collusion between the spouses to lie about grounds for divorce will prevent a divorce from being granted.4 For spouses seeking to get a speedy divorce, pleading an at-fault ground acts as a small loophole around the no-fault ground’s separation period.5
Alternatively, no-fault divorce can be awarded where the parties have lived separately and apart for at least eighteen months.
Finally, the spouses must agree on the terms of the divorce. This is most commonly accomplished by the creation of a legally-binding property settlement agreement between the parties. A property settlement agreement sets the terms for the divorce and is legally-distinct from a separation agreement, which does not involve divorce. Spouses entering into a property settlement agreement should resolve all pending issues in the divorce. At a minimum, the agreement should include provisions on the following issues:
- Distribution of property (including the marital residence, cars, and pets);
- Division of marital debts;
- Alimony (also known as spousal support); and
- If applicable, child custody, visitation, and child support.
On Spousal Support and Property Settlement Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses tosign a legal property settlement agreement. A property settlement agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A property settlement agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation.A fully completed property settlement agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and maybe helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any property settlement agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Arkansas
Once you have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is as follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
- For spouses seeking an uncontested divorce in Arkansas without the assistance of an attorney, the first step will be agreeing on the terms of the divorce and preparing the required divorce paperwork. Many spouses may choose to hire an attorney to resolve only this part of the divorce process. Agreeing to a settlement and filing the proper paperwork can be confusing, and many spouses find that they need at least some minimal help with this step.
- Next, the spouses will need to determine which court to use to file for divorce. The divorce complaint must be filed in the county in which the filing spouse resides, or if the filing spouse lives out of state, in the county in which the non-filing spouse lives.
- File your complaint for divorce. The filing spouse will then need to serve the non-filing spouse with the divorce complaint. The non-filing spouse should then file an answer agreeing to the terms of the property settlement agreement. This paperwork filing stage is known as the “pleading stage.”
- Wait! Once all the paperwork has been filed, the Arkansas court must wait at least thirty days before hearing your divorce complaint.6 During this period, the court may require spouses with minor children to attend parenting classes that are intended to educate parents on the effect of divorce on a child.
- At your final divorce hearing, the judge will review your property settlement agreement, and if there are no problems, the judge will grant a decree of divorce.
To read the full text of the law on uncontested divorce in Arkansas, read the Arkansas Code Annotated § 9-12-300 et seq.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- A.C.A. § 9-12-307.
- A.C.A. § 9-12-301.
- A.C.A. § 9-12-306.
- A.C.A. § 9-12-308.
- The way Arkansas law is worded, a spouse who moved to the state of Arkansas specifically to seek a divorce might need to wait an extra one or two days because of the Arkansas court’s second-tier residency requirement. This requirement is usually irrelevant, but occasionally, it may cause a small delay.