Many people think that there is only one solution to a marriage that just won’t work: permanently end it. And while that may be the most common solution (and is often the right one, depending on the circumstances), Arkansas family law gives married people more options. Marriage dissolution (what we usually think of as “divorce”) is, after all, a creature of equity—the branch of the legal universe that prefers rights over rules and flexibility over formality. One of the most famous “maxims” (tried-and-true sayings) within equity has been “Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy.” If something is broke, equity tries to fix it.
Under Arkansas family law, there are basically three options in this situation: absolute divorce, divorce from bed and board, and separate maintenance. If your marriage is broken, one of the following options will allow you to reach your goals while minimizing unnecessary conflict.
Absolute divorce is what we usually think of when we think about “divorce.” An absolute divorce ends the marriage permanently—in fact, in the eyes of the law it erases the marriage as though it never happened. In order to receive an absolute divorce, one party must be able to show adequate grounds to end the marriage.
Limited divorce is different from absolute divorce because it does not end the marriage. A couple who has received a limited divorce—or a divorce “from bed and board”—cannot remarry. They can still file their tax return together and the parties can still own property as “tenants by the entirety,” which is normally reserved only for married couples. Because the parties are still technically married, one spouse can include the other on a health insurance plan. There will be a property settlement agreement and agreements on child support and child custody. Like absolute divorce, one party must be able to show adequate legal grounds to end the marriage. A couple may choose this option because the stigma of divorce may be too great or may be prohibited for religious reasons.
Separate maintenance is basically alimony, or support paid from one spouse to another. The main difference between the previous two categories and separate maintenance is that a party does not need to prove any fault grounds to secure an order for separate maintenance. All one needs to be able to show is the need for support and an absence of fault—that the person seeking separate maintenance has not given the other spouse a ground for divorce. He or she must also be able to show residence and genuine separation.
Why does this matter? These different categories matter because failed (or failing) marriages are not one-size-fits-all and they shouldn’t be treated as such. Every situation is unique and requires careful attention and thought.
That’s why we’re here—to carefully consider your situation and determine what is best for you. If you don’t want a one-size-fits-all approach, please call us to discuss the specifics of your situation.