Arkansas is a little different from most states when it comes to marriage and divorce. There are two types of marriage in Arkansas: "regular" marriages and covenant marriages. To end a covenant marriage, a couple must undergo counseling mandated by the marriage agreement before they are allowed to divorce. However, legal separations are treated similarly in both types of divorce. In other respects, Arkansas has adopted contemporary ways to dissolve a marriage, including no-fault divorce and legal separations that allow couples a cooling-off period before formally dissolving their marriage.
Legal separations come into existence as part of a court order or by written agreement of the parties. A legal separation in Arkansas usually is a prelude to divorce, but not an irrevocable one -- parties are free to reconcile at any time. Spouses in Arkansas are required to live apart before they are eligible for a divorce. A separation agreement is essential to protecting your rights during the separation period. Separation agreements can also influence the court in determining the final elements of a divorce decree. For these reasons, consulting a professional in family law is advisable.
Read More: What Are the Benefits of Legal Separation Vs. Divorce?
if you are contemplating a divorce in Arkansas, obtaining a legal separation will enable you to resolve issues that fall under the same jurisdiction of the court presiding over your divorce proceeding. In essence, a separation agreement works the same way as a divorce order and the issues are basically the same -- the division of assets, spousal and child support orders, and child custody and visitation arrangements. If you are involved in a contested divorce, very specific terms should be written into the separation agreement.
To file for a divorce or legal separation in Arkansas, at least one spouse must live in Arkansas for 60 days and the filing must be in a county where at least one of the spouses resides. After the petition is filed, a divorce or legal separation can't be issued until at least 30 days after the filing. If you have children, the court might require you to go to parenting classes or mediation before approving a legal separation or divorce agreement.
Getting a legal separation agreement is particularly important for a spouse who needs child support or spousal support. A separation agreement can specify custody and visitation arrangements as well. Since the terms of a separation agreement are enforceable by Arkansas courts, it gives you some protection should your spouse violate the agreement.
As the American Bar Association explains, the terms of a separation agreement are vitally important in both the short run and long run. Although the terms of a separation agreement can be modified in a divorce decree, some judges are reluctant to depart from the terms of the separation agreement, using it as "precedent" in determining the final divorce agreement terms. Therefore, it's important to ensure the terms of the separation agreement protect your interests because they may be incorporated into the divorce decree later.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.