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Divorce/Separation/Annulment

Covenant Marriage Introduction

A man and a woman may contract a covenant marriage by declaring their intent to do so on their application for a marriage license and executing a declaration of intent to contract a covenant marriage as provided.  In order to obtain a divorce from a covenant marriage, you may file a Complaint for Divorce explaining grounds and asking for a decree of divorce.  The spouse who files the Complaint for Divorce is the plaintiff. The spouse against whom the Complaint for Divorce is filed is the defendant.

Filing

The complaint for divorce must contain factual allegations specific to your case. Before you can file for divorce, the following must be true:

  • you have lived in Arkansas for 60 days;
  • you have attended marital counseling;
  • you have grounds for divorce (see below);
  • the grounds happened within the last 5 years.

 

Your complaint for divorce must contain numbered paragraphs that include this information. If your spouse does not want the divorce, then you must have a hearing and prove each of the things listed above.  You will also need to bring a witness to confirm your testimony about the grounds and Arkansas residency.

Grounds for Divorce

The grounds for divorce in a covenant marriage are stricter than in a normal marriage. You must prove that your spouse committed at least one of these grounds to be granted a divorce:

  • adultery;
  • felony or serious crime;
  • physical or sexual abuse of you or one of your children;
  • living separate and apart from you for at least two years;
  • living separate and apart from you for at least two years from the date of a judicial separation;

Grounds for Separation

The grounds for separation in a covenant marriage are stricter than in a normal marriage. You must prove that your spouse committed at least one of these grounds to be granted a judgment of judicial separation:

  • adultery;
  • felony;
  • physical or sexual abuse of you or of one of your children;
  • living separate and apart from you for at least two years;
  • habitual drunkenness for one year;
  • cruel and barbarous treatment that is a danger to your life;
  • general indignities that make it intolerable to continue being married;

Service

You must legally serve your spouse/defendant with the Complaint for Divorce and give your spouse the chance to respond in writing.

The Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure require you to serve your spouse with the Complaint for Divorce in a specific way:

  • a process server or deputy sheriff may personally give the summons and complaint to the defendant;
  • you can send the Summons and Complaint for Divorce by certified mail;
  • If you do not know where Defendant lives you may ask to serve by warning order;
  • If defendant is in prison or serving in the military, different rules apply.

 

Once the defendant is served, he or she generally has thirty days to file a written answer with the court. If the defendant does not file an answer, the court can grant the divorce without the defendant being present.

Many cases are settled by agreement of the parties. If the parties cannot agree, the judge will decide all of the issues.

Potential Issues Decided in a Divorce Case

Main Issues:

  • Which parent will the children live with?
  • How often will the children be able to visit with the other parent?
  • Will the children be able to move from the state?
  • Who will pay for the children’s medical and other expenses beyond child support?
  • How should property and debts acquired during the marriage be divided?

Child and Spousal Support

The amount of child support is determined by the Arkansas Family Support Chart. Alimony or spousal support may be awarded based on the spouse’s needs, the other’s ability to pay, and the specific facts of the case.

Time Frame:

Getting a divorce in Arkansas takes a minimum of thirty days from the date a complaint is filed. If there are several issues to be decided by the judge, the divorce may take much longer.

Final Decree and Change in Circumstances

Once the Decree of Divorce is signed by the judge and file marked, you cannot change the terms without a court order. The Decree of Divorce lists the rights and responsibilities of each person. If one party does not follow the terms of the Decree of Divorce, the other party may re-open the case and file a motion for contempt.