Divorce & Legal Separation
Overview of Divorce in Arkansas
We take your divorce seriously. Before thinking about divorce, it’s important to remember that there are two aspects to a marriage in Arkansas. One aspect of marriage is the promise that each person makes to the other—the solemn covenant that the parties have together. That doesn’t have anything to do with lawyers. But there is, of course, another aspect of a marriage: the legal relationship between the parties in the eyes of the State of Arkansas. That’s where the attorney comes in. And they’re important.
When a person comes in to talk to an Arkansas family lawyer, the marriage is often already “over” in the first sense. That is, one or more of the parties has broken his or her vows and “breached” the covenant that they entered into. There may still be a legal relationship between the parties that declares them to be husband and wife, but most of what really makes a marriage a marriage has already been dissolved.
A competent family attorney will be able to know if the parties have really ended their marriage. If not, the parties should consider legal separation as a temporary solution and pursue reconciliation. But if there’s no chance for getting back together, it’s probably a good idea to proceed with the steps to end the marriage in the eyes of the State of Arkansas. An Arkansas family lawyer can’t end a marriage; he or she is just responsible for making sure that the parties can walk away from the marriage with their rights intact.
If divorce is the right option, you need to hire a good family law attorney.
What type of divorce is appropriate?
If the marriage has indeed ended, the next decision is what type of divorce to pursue. Under Arkansas law, there are two types of divorce: absolute divorce and divorce from bed and board.
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.
Divorce from Bed and Board
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 not really a divorce at all. Instead, it is simply an action where the parties are separated and one of the parties needs support. It does affect the legal status of the marriage.