There are so many aspects of divorce, child custody, child support, child visitation that it is enough to make you want to bury your head in the sand. We at Kevin Hickey Law Partners understand this and take great pride in helping our clients get through each topic unique to their case. When I have a client come to my office feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start in the divorce process I go over the basic facts about obtaining a divorce. It is overwhelming, we agree but we’re here to help.
The most common question I hear is, “Where do I start?”
A divorce starts when either the husband or wife files a complaint for divorce in the circuit court. Arkansas law requires that at least one of the parties must live in Arkansas for at least 60 days before filing for divorce. Any children of the couple must live in Arkansas for six months before the court can decide custody and visitation.
If a client is the plaintiff (the one filing for divorce), I ask, “What is the reason for the divorce?”
Arkansas is what is called a “fault divorce” state, which means the plaintiff must prove there is a reason (grounds) for divorce. The most common reason is irreconcilable differences also known as general indignities. Grounds for divorce must be named unless the couple can prove they have been separated for more than 18 months.
What happens after the complaint for divorce is filed with the circuit court?
The defendant (the person the plaintiff wants to divorce) must be notified about the divorce. This is done a couple of different ways. The plaintiff may send the Complaint for Divorce paperwork by certified mail or it may be served by a process server or deputy sheriff. You know, like in the movies, when someone says the person’s name, gives them an envelope followed by, “Consider yourself served.” Sometimes it may not be that easy if you don’t know where to find your former spouse. The defendant can be served by publication, but only if everything has been done to find the defendant. This is called, “service by warning order.” If the defendant is incarcerated or active military duty, then there are applicable special rules that apply to how long the defendant has to answer the lawsuit. Once the defendant has been served, he or she has 30 days to file a written answer with the court. If the defendant does not file an answer, then the judge will issue a divorce by default. Once the divorce is finalized in the court, it cannot be undone..
When will the divorce be finalized?
If there are no disagreements pertaining to issues of the marriage, then the divorce is finalized without a contested hearing. However, if there are issues, then the case will have to go before the judge and he or she will determine the divorce settlement after being presented with all of the pertinent information.
What are some typical divorce settlement issues?
If children are of the marriage, custody, and visitation will need to be decided. Child support amounts will be determined for the non-custodial parent based on the Arkansas Family Support Chart. If the judge deems spousal support is warranted, he or she will also determine the amount after considering all income factors.
Any marital property and debt will need to be divided as well. The judge will determine an equitable division. Remember, equitable does not necessarily mean equally split down the middle. The judge will consider many factors such as equity involved and the amount of debt being divided.
Once the judge orders a final divorce decree, it is done. It cannot be changed. However, custody, visitation, and support can be modified but you will need to go back to court for a modification. That is why it is important to seek legal counsel from Kevin Hickey Law Partners. It is much easier to do things correctly at the beginning rather than going back to court. Don’t get overwhelmed; contact Kevin Hickey Law Partners to represent you in your divorce.