It does not matter who files first for divorce in Arkansas. That is to say that filing first does not grant somebody any particular advantage, especially not anything resembling a major advantage. Both parties involved in the divorce will have a chance to state their own requests and to deny any claims they take umbrage with.

However, with that said, it should be noted there are still pros and cons to being the first to file for divorce. These pros and cons aren’t something that is going to matter to every person that is considering divorce, so it’ll be up to you to weigh them and consider whether or not filing first is going to negatively or positively affect your circumstances.

One major difference that comes from filing first, though, is the need to state the grounds upon which you are looking to get divorced. We’ll discuss the grounds for divorce first, then move into a consideration of the pros and cons of being the first to file for divorce. To close, we will consider how long a divorce takes and whether or not filing first makes any difference in the length of the divorce.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Arkansas?

Arkansas is what we call a fault state. That means that in order for a divorce to be granted, the person that files for divorce must do so on one of the accepted grounds for divorce. Another way to think of it is that Arkansas requires you to have a reason to get divorced rather than just getting divorced. This is opposed to a no-fault state, where there doesn’t have to be a ground or a reason for the divorce.

But in Arkansas, you must have grounds for a divorce, and they must be grounds that Arkansas recognizes. There are a handful of grounds for divorce that are considered acceptable. Remember, the person that files for divorce first is required to do so on one of the following grounds:

  • Your spouse is impotent.
  • Your spouse was convicted of a felony.
  • Your spouse is a habitual drunk.
  • Your spouse committed adultery.
  • Your spouse treated you in a cruel and barbarous manner.
  • General indignities, which means your spouse constantly treats you with rudeness, hatred, abuse, and neglect.
  • You and your spouse have lived apart for eighteen continuous months or more.
  • You and your spouse have lived apart for three years or more due to your spouse’s incurable insanity, and the spouse has been committed to a mental health facility.
  • Your spouse does not support you when they have a legal obligation and the ability to do so.

In many failing marriages, it is possible for more than one ground to be present. However, it is worth thinking about what ground you are going to claim when filing for divorce. The grounds must have occurred within the last five years before filing for divorce, and they must have occurred in Arkansas. This alone may limit what grounds you could use.

In addition, remember that this is a fault state. That means that it must be shown that your spouse was at fault, which means that they were guilty of the grounds you claimed in your filing. If there is a ground for divorce that will be easier to prove to the court, then that should be the angle you use when filing since it will be the most straightforward argument to prove in court later.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Filing for Divorce First?

So there are advantages and disadvantages to filing first, though some may be moot depending on the specifics of your unique circumstances. Let’s start with the pros.

  • Pro: If you suspect the divorce will be contentious, then filing first allows you the time to attain and make a plan with an attorney first. This can be a major advantage since it puts you one step ahead of your spouse.
  • Pro: Filing brings the courts into the situation, so it can be a powerful step toward getting an order of protection to protect yourself or your children

Now let’s look at the cons.

  • Con: You present the ground upon which you will be arguing for the divorce, and this lets your spouse’s attorney work on a strategy to try to defeat that specific argument.
  • Con: There are filing fees to be paid.
  • Con: A public record now shows you filed for divorce.
  • Con: You may face unexpected feelings of guilt or shame, despite knowing that the marriage is truly over.

How Long Does Divorce Take?

Let’s imagine a perfect divorce. Both spouses agree on all the terms, and there is no fighting to get over. At the bare minimum, that divorce is still going to take at least 30 days. A judge has to wait 30 days from the filing of the Complaint for Divorce before the divorce can be approved.

But most divorces aren’t perfect. Many divorces are incredibly messy. Whenever there is fighting over the terms of the divorce, the length of the divorce is going to increase. This means that a particularly contentious divorce can end up taking a long time.

When you file for divorce, you are setting the start of the 30-day waiting period. Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee the divorce will be over in 30 days, so it isn’t really a pro or a con.

Should I Work With an Attorney?

If you are considering divorcing your spouse, then you absolutely should speak to an experienced divorce attorney. If you suspect that the divorce is going to be contentious in any way, then it is a good idea to approach an attorney long before filing for divorce; that way, you and your attorney can craft a plan to tackle all the relevant issues ahead of time.

Even if you think the divorce will be easy, working with an attorney to ensure all the fine print and small details are properly handled is a smart move.