Want a Divorce in Arkansas? This is how long you need to be separated
Divorce, in Arkansas, is initiated when one spouse files a “complaint” in a circuit clerk’s office in the county where they or their spouse resides. This complaint is the divorce petition essentially asking the court that the marriage be dissolved because of the reasons stated in it.
There’s some way to go before the court actually grants a decree dissolving the marriage though. Before the marriage can be dissolved, it must be based on one of the legally recognized grounds provided under the divorce codes.
One of the grounds that may be proved under the code is that the parties to the divorce have been separated for a long period of time without cohabitation or marital relationship. If this can be successfully proved, then the divorce can be based on the proof provided.
However, the amount of time for which the parties must have remained separate depends on the type of marriage that has been conducted between them right from the off.
The types of marriage in Arkansas
There are two basic types of marriage in Arkansas. They are the Covenant and non-Covenant marriage. Although these marriages have no difference in terms of the responsibilities of the spouses towards each other while it is ongoing, there are some material difference between them as regards procedure for creation and dissolution.
Let’s take a closer look at these two types of marriage.
In a covenant marriage, it is generally understood that the parties are making a very real commitment towards staying with each other and building a family together. Due to this, there is a lot more emphasis on staying together and this intent is declared time and again all through the process of entering into the marriage.
At the point of creation, the parties to a covenant marriage are expected to enter into a pledge that their marriage will be a lifelong commitment. They will also have to take part in authorized marriage counselling and then declare their intent to contract a covenant marriage on the marriage license application.
This essentially means that the parties have entered into a “special” kind of marriage relationship where there is generally a greater expectation that the parties stick together.
The onus on ending a covenant marriage is just as serious as creating it in the first place. Under the law, the parties can only end the marriage upon proof that “there has been a complete and total breach of the marital covenant commitment”.
The only way to provide proof of this complete and total breakdown is to base the divorce proceedings on one of the grounds for dissolution of marriage recognized under the divorce laws.
How do you know if you’re in a covenant marriage? Odds are if you don’t know whether you’re in a covenant marriage or not, then you probably aren’t. But to stay safe, you can either take a look at your marriage license or have a qualified divorce lawyer take a look with you.
Ascertaining whether you’re in a covenant marriage or not will determine what steps you can then take to begin the dissolution of the marriage.
Any marriage that is not a covenant marriage is a regular marriage. In fact, most marriages are regular marriages since it’s not everyone that likes to go through the extra procedures that entering into a covenant marriage will entail.
The level of expectation generally required of covenant marriages is much lower here. Of course, this does not mean that the parties to a regular marriage are not expected to honour their vows. It only means that the onus on them in creating and exiting the marriage is a bit lower than in covenant marriages.
If you’re not sure whether you’re in a covenant marriage, then you’re most probably in a non-covenant marriage. Again, it doesn’t hurt to be sure. Just take a copy of your marriage license and show it to your lawyer. They’ll be able to put you through.
What are the requirements for filing a divorce in Arkansas?
Having determined what type of marriage you entered into, you’re now ready to have a look at the requirements that must be fulfilled before you can set divorce proceedings in motion.
The major requirements are two-fold. Parties must prove that they are residents of Arkansas, specifically the county where they are filing the divorce and they must also base the divorce on one of the accepted grounds for filing a divorce under the Code.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the marital law and residency requirements in your county. This is because they often vary from county to county. Regardless of whatever county you’re in though, you’ll need to prove that either you or your spouse is resident in the county.
For non-covenant marriages, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident in Arkansas for at least 60 days. If you do not live in Arkansas but are filing to divorce a spouse that does, you should file in their county of residence.
For covenant marriages however, both spouses must be domiciled within the state before you can file for dissolution of marriage. If either or both of you don’t live within Arkansas, your divorce complaint will be irregular.
In addition to both being residents of the state, the incident that serves as the ground for your divorce must have occurred within the state or while your marital home was in the state.
If you cannot fulfil this condition, then at least, the spouse filing for divorce must have been living in Arkansas before the ground occurred and must again be living there at the time of filing the divorce.
Unlike the requirements for residency, the grounds for filing a divorce do not vary across the counties in Arkansas. In order to legally end a marriage, it must be proved that the appropriate grounds occurred within the last 5 years.
The grounds for default may either be “fault” based or “no-fault”.
As the name implies, this means that one of the spouses was responsible for the breakdown of the marriage and the circumstances that now lead to divorce. The grounds that may be proved here include that the spouse has…
- Committed adultery
- Been convicted for a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment
- Has committed physical or sexual abuse on the spouse or one of the kids in the marriage
- Been addicted to alcohol for over a year
- Been endangering their life; or
- Committed “indignities” so as to render continued married life intolerable.
For both covenant and non-covenant marriages, divorce can also be based on a no-fault ground. The only ground here is proof that the two spouses have lived separate and apart without reconciliation for a specified period. This period is 2 years for covenant marriages and 18 months for non-covenant marriages.
When can you get a divorce in Arkansas?
If you’re planning to get a no-fault divorce in Arkansas, the amount of time you would have to wait depends on what type of marriage you entered into in the first place.
For a covenant marriage, you will have to wait for 2 years during which time there must have been no marital contact between you and your spouse. Any marital contact during this period resets the clock and it will only restart counting from the date of the last marital contact.
For a non-covenant marriage, the waiting period is 18 months during which there was no marital contact. The same rules under covenant marriage apply here if there is any marital contact between you and your spouse during the period.
Speak to a lawyer firstAlthough we have done our best to provide you the most accurate position of the law on how long you have to be separated before a divorce, it’s always best to speak to a lawyer to consider your options.
This is because we have stated the general provisions of the law. Your case may have certain peculiarities that require more bespoke advice. So don’t go doing anything until you have discussed your position with a qualified Arkansas divorce lawyer.
If you have any questions, we’ll be happy to entertain them.