Arkansas Uncontested Divorce

This information is an overview of the uncontested Arkansas divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Arkansas.

To file for a divorce in Arkansas, a spouse must reside there for 60 days to file and then an additional three months before the action can be made final. The action should be filed in the county of the Plaintiff, but if the Plaintiff is a nonresident, the action may be filed in the county of the Defendant.

Grounds for divorce are No-Fault, which means "[v]oluntarily living separately without cohabitation for 18 months"; and general, including 1) impotence, 2) adultery, 3) confinement caused by mental illness for a period of three years, 4) conviction of a felony, 5) cruel and inhuman treatment which endangers the life of the spouse, 6) personal indignities, 7) habitual intemperance (drunkenness) for a year, 8) commission and/or conviction of an infamous crime, 9) nonsupport, "whereby the spouse is able to provide support but willfully fails to provide suitable maintenance for the complaining spouse."

Actions are filed in the Circuit Court. The filing spouse is called the Plaintiff; the responding spouse is called the Defendant.

Legal separations are permitted under the same general grounds as divorce as well as voluntary separation for 18 months and willful desertion for a year.

For an uncontested divorce, proof of a spouse’s residency, proof of separation and proof of noncohabitation may be provided by a signed affidavit from a third party. Moreover, in an uncontested divorce proof of grounds need not be corroborated by a third party.

Indigent parties may file In Formas Pauperis, which is particularly important in the event that the Plaintiff has difficulty serving the Defendant with the divorce papers.

To file for an uncontested divorce in a marriage without children, the Plaintiff must file the following forms:

> A Complaint for Divorce, which stipulates that the Plaintiff meet the residency requirement, that there are no minor children born of the marriage and none expected, that the parties have separated and remained separated.

The Plaintiff files the Complaint with a cover sheet with the Circuit Clerk, who issues a Standard Restraining Order that restrains the parties from mutual harassment or dissipation of marital property as well as a:

> Summons, which gives the Defendant a number of days to answer the Complaint.

If the Defendant agrees to waive service of the Complaint and Summons, he or she must sign a verified and notarized Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service of Summons, by which he or she agrees to let the case proceed and waives service of process.

If the Defendant will not sign an Entry of Appearance and Waiver of Service of Summons, then he or she must be served. This can be done in one of three ways:

> Service by Sheriff or Process Server, or

> Service by Certified Mail, Restricted Delivery, Return Receipt Requested, after which the Plaintiff must complete and file an Affidavit of Service by Mail and attach the green postal card to the Affidavit.

If both of these fall, the Plaintiff must serve the Defendant by publication. This requires that the Plaintiff demonstrated "due diligence" in locating the missing spouse. After attempts of service by Sheriff or Process Service and Service by Mail have failed, the Plaintiff may:

> Publish a Warning Order on a bulletin board in the courthouse, if the court granted him or her permission to proceed with the divorce In Formis Pauperis, or

> Publish the Warning Order in a newspaper of general circulation for at least two weeks, if the court did not grant him or her permission to proceed with the divorce In Formis Pauperis.

In either event, the Plaintiff must then file an Affidavit of Service by Warning Order, stipulating that the publication happened.

After the Complaint and other appropriate affidavits have been filed, the Plaintiff asks the court clerk to schedule a hearing. The Clerk issues a Notice of Hearing and the judge’s case coordinator schedules a time for an uncontested hearing. The Plaintiff must mail the Defendent a Notice of Hearing, by regular mail.

At the hearing, a witness normally testifies as to the grounds and residency of the Plaintiff.

The Plaintiff must also prepare a Decree of Divorce, which is signed by the judge after the hearing.

Normally, since the action is uncontested, the Plaintiff and Defendant will have reached and signed a Property Settlement Agreement, which is attached to the Decree of Divorce.