Most of the questions I get about family law are about fairly basic topics. This series, Back to Basics, will discuss some of these topics and, hopefully, give you a better understanding of the basics of family law in Arkansas.
The first topic covered is grounds for divorce. Because not every state requires a plaintiff to have grounds for divorce, this subject is the source of some confusion. States that do not require grounds are often called “no-fault” divorce states. But for better or worse, divorce in Arkansas is not that simple and you must have actual grounds for a court to grant you a divorce.
So, what are the grounds for divorce in Arkansas? This cursory outline of Arkansas Code Annotated § 9-12-301 will give you a very basic answer.
A court has the power to grant a divorce for:
(2) Conviction of a felony or other infamous crime;
(3) (A) Habitual drunkenness;
(B) Cruel and barbarous treatment that endangers the life of the other; or
(C) General indignities that render your condition intolerable;
(5) Separation without cohabitation for eighteen (18) months;
(6) Insanity of spouse; and
Most of these are simple and don’t require much by way of definition or explanation. However, the one listed that seems to be used the most is (3)(C), general indignities. This is a rather vague term and requires some further reading to understand.
The Arkansas Supreme Court, in Coker v. Coker, gave one definition of what is required for general indignities and stated, “it is still necessary that the conduct relied upon manifest settled hate, alienation and estrangement and be constantly and systematically pursued with the purpose and effect of causing an enduring alienation and estrangement and rendering the condition of the spouse intolerable.” Coker v. Coker, 2012 Ark. 383 (citing Lytle v. Lytle, 266 Ark. 124 (1979). The Court went even further back in time to 1849 to gain more insight on this ground for divorce when it cited Rose v. Rose which clarified that a party need not have “reasonable apprehension of bodily hurt,” but that “rudeness, unmerited reproach, contempt, studies neglect, open insult . . .” which are “habitual continuous and permanent” will satisfy the requirements for general indignities. Id. at 5, (citing Rose v. Rose, 9 Ark. 507 (1849).
Still confusing? It really isn’t as complicated as it sounds. As I have heard it asked before, “Was your spouse mean to you? Call you names? Treat you bad or in such a way that it makes your situation in life and in your marriage intolerable?”
Merely having grounds for divorce is not all that is required for the grant of a divorce. If your divorce is uncontested, you will not have to prove your grounds for divorce in court. This does not mean that you are not required to have grounds to obtain a divorce, but rather that the opposing party is not contesting that you have grounds. You are still required to appear before the judge, or submit sworn deposition testimony, and present the details of your grounds for divorce to the court.
In the event that your divorce is contested, you and your spouse will appear in court and you will be required to prove that you have grounds for a divorce. This will require you to present corroborative evidence from witnesses who have first-hand knowledge of your grounds for divorce. This requires more than just a witness who can repeat what they have been told.
Remember that this is a very basic discussion and there are many aspects to each of these grounds for divorce which have not been examined. There is a reason that an attorney’s answer to every question is, “It depends,” and it truly does depend on many variables. The above should not be considered legal advice and there is no substitute for counsel of a qualified attorney.
If you would like to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our attorneys regarding divorce, or another area of family law, please call 501-296-9999 for a free consultation.
This article was written by the Tripcony May Team.
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