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Divorce is usually stressful for everyone involved. If there are extensive assets to be divided or parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation, the process can be particularly stressful. Understanding how the process works and having an experienced attorney on your side can ease the stress of filing for divorce.
A divorce case begins when either the husband or wife files a complaint for divorce. The party who files first is known as the plaintiff. A complaint for divorce must contain language about who the parties are, the date of marriage, the date of separation, residency, and whether or not there are any assets to be divided. A complaint for divorce should also state whether or not the plaintiff is seeking custody of any minor children.
After filing a complaint, the next stage of a divorce proceeding is for the defendant to be served with paperwork—the complaint for divorce and a summons form issued by the circuit clerk's office where the complaint was filed. Paperwork for a divorce may be served by the sheriff's office where the defendant resides, or you may elect to hire a process server. The defendant must either be served or must sign an affidavit stating that he or she agrees to waive service of process for a divorce to be valid in Arkansas.
If you have been served with divorce paperwork, you may be wondering what to do next. It is important to act timely to respond to the divorce complaint because failure to do so could result in the loss of important rights. You are only allowed 30 days to file a response to a complaint for divorce in Arkansas, unless you are incarcerated, in which case you are allowed 60 days to file a response.
Being served with divorce paperwork can sometimes come as a surprise, even if you have been separated from your spouse for a long time. Speaking to an attorney right away can help ease the worry about what to do next.
After you have filed or answered a complaint for divorce, the next stage of the process is what is called “discovery.” This is an opportunity for each side to request evidence that they anticipate may be used at trial. Discovery requests may include the following:
In many cases, it will be possible to negotiate many things that must be litigated in a divorce case out of court, such as the division of property and debt and, if you have minor children, which parent shall have primary custody or if the parties will share joint custody.
Negotiating as many issues as possible out of court is a good idea in many cases. If you have children, you as a parent are familiar with your child's needs and schedule and are in the best position to be able to make decisions regarding a schedule for visitation. If you will share joint custody with the other parent, you will need to work out a schedule that works for both of you. Joint custody works best when parents can agree on major issues, such as where the children will live and attend school and their religious upbringing.
Mediation may be ordered in some cases by a court or after either party has requested it. Mediation is a chance for the parties in a divorce case to present evidence to a mediator and negotiate for what they want out of the divorce process.
For mediation to be successful, it may be important to think about what you want the final outcome to be and be willing to compromise on some of the issues that are less important to you. For example, if you want to remain living in the marital home, it is reasonable to expect that you will need to pay your spouse a one-half share of the equity in the home.
If you cannot work out the issues in a divorce case, your case may proceed to trial. The trial will occur before a judge who will make decisions regarding any contested issues after hearing all the evidence presented by each side.
Evidence may be presented in the form of witness testimony and introduction of documents. Witnesses may include the parties in the case and anyone with knowledge that may be relevant for assisting the court with its decisions. Witnesses may also be experts, such as psychologists, doctors, and forensic accountants.
A divorce is finalized when a judge signs a divorce decree which is filed at the clerk's office where the divorce was filed. A divorce decree will specify how property and debt must be divided, which parent has primary custody if there are minor children or if they shall share joint custody, and may contain provisions regarding child support and spousal support. The terms of a divorce decree must be followed—otherwise the case may end up back in court.
Do you have questions about filing for divorce in Arkansas? Schedule a free consultation today to talk about your case with an experienced divorce attorney. Once you have an attorney on your side, you may find that the divorce process is less stressful. Contact Laura Avery by calling (501) 725-1100 or fill out our online form.
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