Arkansas Divorce Laws: Child Custody & Support, Alimony, Property Division

The following is a summary of Arkansas divorce laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Arkansas Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Grounds for Divorce in Arkansas

The state of Arkansas shall grant a “no-fault” divorce if it finds that the parties have lived separate and apart from each other for 18 continuous months without cohabitation.

Arkansas also recognizes several fault-based grounds under their statutes. The following is a brief summary of those grounds, and if you are interested in using any of these grounds, it would be in your best interests to consult with an attorney about whether your particular situation warrants filing your divorce based on such grounds, and what type of proof might be needed.

  1. When either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is impotent;
  2. When either party shall be convicted of a felony or other infamous crime;
  3. When either party shall:
    (A) Be addicted to habitual drunkenness for one (1) year;
    (B) Be guilty of such cruel and barbarous treatment as to endanger the life of the other; or
    (C) Offer such indignities to the person of the other as shall render his or her condition intolerable;
  4. When either party shall have committed adultery subsequent to the marriage;
  5. In all cases in which a husband and wife have lived separate and apart for three consecutive years without cohabitation by reason of the incurable insanity of one of them.

In uncontested divorce suits, corroboration of plaintiff’s grounds for divorce shall not be necessary or required.

In contested suits, corroboration of the injured party’s grounds may be expressly waived in writing by the other spouse.

Proof of separation and continuity of separation without cohabitation must be corroborated. In uncontested cases, proof may be corroborated by either oral testimony or verified affidavit of persons other than the parties.

-From Sections 9-12-301 and 9-12-306 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Filing Divorce in Arkansas

If the petitioning spouse resides in Arkansas, then the divorce should be filed in the county where the petitioning spouse resides. If the petitioning spouse is not a resident of Arkansas, but the defendant is a resident of Arkansas, then your divorce shall be filed in the county where the defendant resides.

-From 9-12-303 of the Arkansas Code

Residency Requirements in Arkansas

To obtain a divorce, the plaintiff must prove residence in the state by either the plaintiff or defendant for 60 days before filing for divorce, and residence in the state for 3 full months before the final judgment granting the decree of divorce. The word “residence” is defined to mean actual presence.

-From Section 9-12-307 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Waiting Period Before Divorce is Finalized in Arkansas

No decree of divorce shall be granted until at least 30 days have elapsed from the date of the filing of the complaint.

-From Sections 9-12-307 and 9-12-310 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Additional Information

The court may restore the wife to the name which she bore previous to the marriage being dissolved.

-From Section 9-12-318 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

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, or submit to mediation in regard to addressing parenting, custody, and visitation issues.

-From Section 9-12-322 of the Arkansas Code

Arkansas Alimony Laws

The following is a summary of Arkansas alimony laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Arkansas Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Alimony Guidelines

When a decree is entered, the court shall make orders concerning the alimony of the wife or the husband, as are reasonable from the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case. Unless otherwise ordered by the court or agreed to by the parties, the liability for alimony shall automatically cease upon the earlier of:

  • 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 shall 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 shall be considered the equivalent of remarriage.

-From 9-12-312 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code.

Arkansas Child Custody Laws

The following is a summary of Arkansas child custody laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Arkansas Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Jurisdiction of the Arkansas Court

Unless grounds exist for temporary emergency jurisdiction, Arkansas Courts have jurisdiction to make an initial child-custody determination only if:

  1. this state is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the proceeding and the child is absent from this state but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in this state;
  2. no other state is the home state of the child, or a court of the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is the more appropriate forum under § 9-19-207 or § 9-19-208, and:
    (A) the child and the child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with this state other than mere physical presence; and
    (B) substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships;
  3. all courts having jurisdiction have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that a court of this state is the more appropriate forum to determine the custody of the child; or
  4. no court of any other state would have jurisdiction.

Physical presence of, or personal jurisdiction over, a party or a child is not necessary or sufficient to make a child-custody determination.

A court of this state which has made a child-custody determination consistent with § 9-19-201 or § 9-19-203 has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over the determination until:

  1. a court of this state determines that neither the child, nor the child and one parent, nor the child and a person acting as a parent have a significant connection with this state and that substantial evidence is no longer available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships; or
  2. a court of this state or a court of another state determines that the child, the child’s parents, and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in this state.

-From 9-19-201 and 9-19-202 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Factors Determining Child Custody in Arkansas

In an action for divorce, the award of custody of a child of the marriage shall be made without regard to the sex of a parent but solely in accordance with the welfare and best interest of the child. In determining the best interest of the child, the court may consider the preferences of the child if the child is of a sufficient age and capacity to reason, regardless of chronological age.

When in the best interests of a child, custody shall be awarded in such a way so as to assure the frequent and continuing contact of the child with both parents. To this effect, the circuit court may consider awarding joint custody of a child to the parents in making an order for custody. To this effect, in making an order for custody, the court may consider, among other facts, which party is more likely to allow the child or children frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent and the noncustodial grandparent.

There shall be a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interest of the child to be placed in the custody of an abusive parent in cases where there is a finding by a preponderance of the evidence that the parent has engaged in a pattern of domestic abuse.

-From 9-13-101 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Transfer of Custody on School Property

In order to avoid continuing child custody 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 real property of a public elementary or secondary school on normal school days during normal hours of school operations. The provisions of this section shall not prohibit one parent, custodial or noncustodial, from transporting the child to school and the other parent, custodial or noncustodial, from picking up the child from school at prearranged times on prearranged days if prior approval has been made with the school’s principal.

-From 9-13-104 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Right of Parents to School Records

Any noncustodial parent who has been awarded visitation rights by the court with respect to a child shall, upon request, be provided a copy of the current scholastic records of such child by the school district or college attended by the child.

-From 9-13-301 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Parenting Course

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, or submit to mediation in regard to addressing parenting, custody, and visitation issues.

-From 9-12-322 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Arkansas Child Support Laws

The following is a summary of Arkansas child support laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Arkansas Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Calculating Child Support in Arkansas

In determining a reasonable amount of support initially or upon review to be paid by the noncustodial parent or parents, the court shall refer to the most recent revision of the family support chart.

In all cases where the support and care of any children are involved, the court may order either parent to secure and maintain health care coverage for the benefit of the children when health care coverage is available or becomes available to the parent at a reasonable cost. “Health care coverage” includes, but need not be limited to, insurance of human beings against bodily injury, disability, or death by accident or accidental means, or the expense thereof, or disablement or expense resulting from sickness, and every insurance appertaining thereto.

“Income” means any periodic form of payment due to an individual, regardless of the source, including wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, workers’ compensation, disability, payments pursuant to a pension or retirement program, and interest.

The definition of “income” may be expanded by the Arkansas Supreme Court from time to time in the Arkansas Child Support Guidelines, Arkansas Supreme Court Administrative Order Number 10.

Health care coverage premiums shall not be deemed or used as a direct offset to the child support award. However, premiums for health care for a minor child can be considered in determining net take-home pay of the noncustodial parent when setting the current child support award.

-From Chapter 14 of Title 9 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Deviation from Child Support Guidelines

It shall be a rebuttable presumption for the award of child support that the amount contained in the family support chart is the correct amount of child support to be awarded. Only upon a written finding that the application of the family support chart would be unjust or inappropriate as determined under established criteria set forth in the family support chart shall the presumption be rebutted.

The court shall consider whether an adjustment in child support is appropriate, giving consideration to the fixed obligations of the custodial parent that are attributable to the child, to the increased costs of the noncustodial parent associated with the child’s visit, and to the relative incomes of both parents.

  1. Relevant factors to be considered by the court in determining appropriate amounts of child support shall include:
  2. Food;
  3. Shelter and utilities;
  4. Clothing;
  5. Medical expenses;
  6. Educational expenses;
  7. Dental expenses;
  8. Child care (includes nursery, baby sitting, daycare or other expenses for supervision of children necessary for the custodial parent to work);
  9. Accustomed standard of living;
  10. Recreation;
  11. Insurance;
  12. Transportation expenses; and
  13. Other income or assets available to support the child from whatever source.

Additional factors may warrant adjustments to the child support obligations and shall include:

  1. The procurement and maintenance of life insurance, health insurance, dental insurance for the children’s benefit;
  2. The provision or payment of necessary medical, dental, optical, psychological or counseling expenses of the children (e.g., orthopedic shoes, glasses, braces, etc.);
  3. The creation or maintenance of a trust fund for the children;
  4. The provision or payment of special education needs or expenses of the child;
  5. The provision or payment of day care for a child;
  6. The extraordinary time spent with the noncustodial parent, or shared or joint custody arrangements;
  7. The support required and given by a payor for dependent children, even in the absence of a court order; and
  8. Where the amount of child support indicated by the chart is less than the normal costs of child care, the court shall consider whether a deviation is appropriate.

-From Section 9-14-106 of the Arkansas Code and Administrative Order No 10

Order for Income Withholding

All support orders issued shall include a provision for immediate implementation of income withholding, absent a finding of good cause not to require immediate income withholding or a written agreement of the parties incorporated in the order setting forth an alternative agreement.

-From 9-14-218 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Termination of Child Support in Arkansas

The court may provide for the payment of support beyond the eighteenth birthday of the child to address the educational needs of a child whose eighteenth birthday falls prior to graduation from high school so long as such support is conditional on the child remaining in school.

The court may also provide for the continuation of support for an individual with a disability which affects the ability of the individual to live independently from the custodial parent.

-From Section 9-12-312 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Arkansas Property Division Laws

The following is a summary of Arkasas property division laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Arkansas Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Factors Determining Property Division

At the time a divorce decree is entered, all marital property shall be distributed one-half to each party unless the court finds a property division to be inequitable. In that event the court shall make some other division that the court deems equitable taking into consideration:

(i) The length of the marriage;

(ii) Age, health, and station in life of the parties;

(iii) Occupation of the parties;

(iv) Amount and sources of income;

(v) Vocational skills;

(vi) Employability;

(vii) Estate, liabilities, and needs of each party and opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income;

(viii) Contribution of each party in acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of marital property, including services as a homemaker; and

(ix) The federal income tax consequences of the court’s division of property.

When property is divided pursuant to the foregoing considerations the court must state its basis and reasons for not dividing the marital property equally between the parties.

All other property shall be returned to the party who owned it prior to the marriage unless the court shall make some other division that the court deems equitable taking into consideration those factors listed above, in which event the court must state in writing its basis and reasons for not returning the property to the party who owned it at the time of the marriage.

Every such final order or judgment shall designate the specific real and personal property to which each party is entitled.

-From 9-12-315 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Marital and Non-Marital Property Defined

For the purpose of this section, “marital property” means all property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage except:

(1) Property acquired prior to marriage or by gift or inheritance;

(2) Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent;

(3) Property acquired by a spouse after legal separation;

(4) Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties;

(5) The increase in value of property acquired prior to marriage or by gift or inheritance;

(6) 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; and

(7) Income from property owned prior to the marriage or from property acquired by gift or by inheritance.

-From 9-12-315 of the Arkansas Divorce laws Code

Joint Credit Accounts

After a court has established one party responsible for a joint credit card account, the nonresponsible party may notify the issuer of the credit card of the court order by sending a written notice containing the account name and account number of the joint credit card accompanied by a certified copy of the court order and property settlement agreement, if any, by certified mail, return receipt requested. This should be sent to the address which the issuer has designated for making payments on the credit card account or to the customer service address provided by the issuer.

No later than the fourth business day after receipt of the notice by the issuer, the nonresponsible party shall not be liable for any new charges on the credit card. He or she shall only be responsible for charges made by the nonresponsible party, and for the balance due prior to the date the issuer processes the notice and all interest and late fees accrued or thereafter accruing on the balance.

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