Back To Basics Part 2: Divorce
The last time we covered the basics of marriage in Arkansas, this week I will cover the basics of divorce in Arkansas because it’s no secret that roughly 35% of all marriages in the United States ends in divorce according to 2017 statistics reported by the National Center for Health Statistics. Among the states, Arkansas falls in the middle to upper range of the divorce rate. Kevin Hickey Law Partners has handled divorce cases ranging from the most simple to the very complex. I thought I would go over some of the most common questions we get during our first meeting with new clients.
Let me begin by saying that I don’t like to steer the conversation. I prefer the client feel comfortable with my staff and me before getting into personal details. I feel this is the foundation of any good client-attorney relationship. This is a personal, life-changing matter to you and not one to be treated just as another divorce case. It is imperative that you feel comfortable enough to discuss the details of your marriage, financial status, provide all necessary documentation requested and to tell the truth about everything pertaining to the dissolution of your marriage. You can rest assured that everything we discuss will be completely confidential.
Does Arkansas require grounds for divorce?
Yes. Arkansas requires that when a person files for divorce, he or she must identify a “ground” (reason) on the divorce petition. It is simply a reason, not a specific detail about an event or act that occurred. Arkansas recognizes the following grounds:
- Felony conviction
- Alcohol abuse for at least one year
- Cruel treatment that endangers the other spouse’s life
- Behavior that results in intolerable humiliation, embarrassment or shame to the other spouse
- Incurable sanity
- Willful failure to support the other spouse
If you claim one of these grounds for divorce, you must prove it in the form of reliable evidence that can be submitted to a court.
You can avoid a fault divorce, if you meet the requirements for a divorce based on separation, which is proving that you and your spouse have lived separately for 18 months, with no cohabitation during that time. If there is any cohabitation or marital relations during that 18-month timeframe, it will not be granted and you will have to start the 18 months all over again.
How is marital property divided?
Arkansas is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the courts will divide property in a just and fair manner. Keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean everything is split right down the middle. Many other factors are considered, such as, the amount of debts versus assets and who is responsible for each debt.
Does Arkansas award spousal support or alimony?
Yes, Arkansas calls it, spousal maintenance. It is generally awarded when one spouse earns (or is unable to earn) a lot more money than the other that doesn’t allow for him or her to continue the marital standard of living.
How is child support determined?
Child support is calculated as a percentage of income dictated by the number of children and other relevant factors of the non-custodial parent.
Is temporary support an option until the divorce is final?
Yes, it is formally referred to as pendente lite support. This is just a very formal way of calling support that is paid during the divorce and until a permanent support order is entered. The requesting spouse will need to show a need for the temporary support request.
How long does a divorce take?
The honest answer is, it depends, because every case is different. The hard and fast answer is that Arkansas requires a three-month waiting period before the divorce becomes final. I, however, strongly advise my clients that this is usually not the case especially if there are many decisions to be made regarding the dissolution of the marriage such as asset division, child custody, support, etcetera.
At the end of the consultation, I’ll wrap up by asking if you are ready to proceed or if you need more time to make this difficult decision. Either answer is perfectly fine; again, I want you to be comfortable with hiring Kevin Hickey Law Partners. Some people are ready to go and others need more time to process the entire situation. If you are ready to begin the process, I will provide you with a list and forms with all the information specific to your case that you will need for the initial divorce filing. This is when a retainer fee will be requested to be paid. The retainer fee is just what it says; it “retains” the services of the firm. It is simply a down payment, if you will, for the commencement of legal services and will be applied against future billings and any unused portion will be refunded to you after the divorce has been settled and the case is completed. My goal is for you leave your consultation feeling that I understand your case and care about achieving a good outcome for you. I want to simplify your divorce, not complicate it.