Arkansas family law issues such as divorce, father’s rights, child custody and child support can be confusing and emotionally draining. It is important to have a basic understanding of your rights and your obligations as you maneuver through Arkansas family law courts. With our helpful guide below, you will gain a basic understanding of Arkansas family law cases and will know what you need to do in order to succeed in your goals. We also can connect you for free to an Arkansas family law professional who can give you the family law advice that you deserve. First, learn a little about the basics and how the law applies to your particular situation.
Arkansas divorce law, found in the Arkansas Code Title 9 – Family Law – Subtitle 2 – Domestic Relations – Chapter 12, requires that in order to receive a no-fault divorce, the couple must have lived apart for at least 18 months. However, when the couple has not lived apart for 18 months, the court must determine whether relevant grounds exist for allowing a fault based divorce. These are much more difficult to prove and oftentimes more costly as well, which is why no-fault divorces are much more common. In this context a fault divorce can be proven if there is evidence of habitual drug or alcohol abuse, adultery, a felony conviction entered against one of the spouses. A divorce can also be granted when the couple has not lived apart for 18 months, when both parties can come to agreement before the court.
Residency Rules for Arkansas Divorces
Before a person can file for divorce in Arkansas, they first must prove at least 60-days of residency. Arkansas Code, properly cited as AR Code Section 9-12-307, states: “(a) To obtain a divorce, the plaintiff must prove, nut need not allege, in addition to a legal cause of divorce: (1)(A): A Residence in the state by either the plaintiff or defendant for sixty (60) days next before the commencement of the action and a residence in the state for three (3) full months before the final judgment granting the decree of divorce.”
Arkansas Waiting Period
The final divorce decree will not be completed until the parties have undergone a 3-month waiting period after the time when the first divorce documents were filed with the court. This can be found in the Arkansas Domestic Relations statute at Title 9 Subtitle 2 Chapter 12 (A.C.A. Section 9-12-301).
Division of Property
Arkansas family law statutes have made Arkansas what is known as an “equitable division” state when it comes to property. This means that the judge will divide the property in an equitable manner, not a straight 50/50 percentage. The judge has discretion to do what he or she thinks is fair under the circumstances of any particular case. For this reason, it is often suggested to obtain family law advice from an Arkansas professional to preserve your rights.
Factors that the court takes into account when dividing property on equitable distribution grounds are the age of the spouses, the earning capacity of each spouse, the history of employment of each spouse, the education level of each spouse, disability, contributions made by each spouse, and many other factors.
Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance, is specifically paid from one spouse to another to maintain a certain standard of living. Factors similar to those for dividing property come into play here as well, such as: the length of the marriage, the age of the spouses, the earning capacity of each spouse, the history of employment of each spouse, the education level of each spouse, disability, contributions made by each spouse, and other factors. If a judge believes that alimony is appropriate after applying a particular cases facts to the statute in question, found at AR Code Section 9-12-315, the judge will make a determination as to the amount of alimony and how long it must be paid.
Arkansas Child Support
Arkansas child support law provides basic guidelines for determining the amount of child support that the non-custodial parent must pay to the custodial parent to support their children. Under Arkansas family law statute (A.C.A. Section 9-14-106), child support awards are based on something called a “family support chart” which is revised on a regular basis by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. The amount of support can be changed upwards r down depending on various circumstances surrounding the case, so there really is no hard and fast rule that can be 100% applied. This makes determining child support in Arkansas more difficult than other states even though the family support chart looks simple to follow. Child support awards are valid until the child either graduates from high school, or reaches the age of 18. Furthermore, the child support award can be extended beyond these requirements when the child is disabled and must live with their custodial parent even after graduation from high-school or turning 18.
Arkansas Child Custody
Arkansas child custody judges make child custody decisions by determining what would be in the best interests of the child, without giving any regard to the sex of either parent. This is specified in Arkansas statute, found at AR Code Section 9-13-101. This means that, specifically, there is not supposed to be a bias against father’s in trying to obtain custody or visitation rights with the children. It is typical that Arkansas family law courts grant sole physical and legal custody to only one primary, custodial parent. However, Arkansas child custody laws state that the courts main goal is to try to get people to sign off on joint custody as that is normally in the best interests of the children. But, when parties cannot get a long, one parent must have sole decision making authority so that the child’s interests are not hurt.
When sole custody is granted to one parent, the other parent can be granted non-custodial status and awarded visitation based on the decisions of the court. A loss of joint custody should not deter a parent from still seeking and obtaining weekly visitation with their child as that is something that most courts will be happy to approve. This is true in cases where the parents are married and also where they are unmarried and are in need of establishing paternity (who the legal and biological father is in a court of law).
There is also the option of joint custody where both parents can be granted joint legal and physical custody of the child. Whatever child custody arrangement that you are pursuing you should contact our family law attorneys today to receive the Arkansas child custody help. Normally, Arkansas judges do not allow a child to make a decision as to which parent they want to live with. However, there are some instances where a judge may consider, as one element alone, the possibility of the child providing their custody preference if the court determines that the child is old enough and can understand what he or she is saying.
Arkansas Father’s Rights
From a legal standpoint Arkansas family law courts are not supposed to consider the gender of either spouse when making child custody and support awards. Arkansas child custody statute even explicitly states that sex of a parent should have no bearing on child custody decisions. However, oftentimes fathers have a difficult time getting the Arkansas father’s rights they deserve. Many judges still have a bias in favor of moms as the primary caregiver. For this reason, it is important to establish yourself as a quality caregiver to your child and work towards showcasing your ability to be the full-time custodial parent. This means avoiding pitfalls and traps that many fathers make. It also probably means not going into court without an experienced Arkansas father’s rights attorney on your side.
What’s Your Next Move?
It should be a no-brainer. Arkansas family law statutes and rules are confusing and most of them archaic, having been written decades ago and not updated enough. Gaining a basic understanding is important, but it is also important to understand your limitations and reach out for Arkansas family law advice and support when you are over your head. We can help connect you – for fee – with an Arkansas family law professional who can find out the level of help you need. But don’t wait, you and your family deserve to make the right decision before it’s too late.