Contesting Grounds for Divorce

In every divorce consultation, I ask prospective clients about their grounds for divorce.  This question is not a mere formality, since Arkansas law requires proof of “grounds” before a divorce can be granted. Many clients ask me to file their divorce under “irreconcilable differences” or some other “no fault” theory.  Unfortunately, Arkansas does not recognize “irreconcilable differences” or “no fault” divorces.  In all cases, the client has to have sufficient “grounds” before the judge can grant a divorce.

As a practical matter, most parties agree that the marriage should be dissolved, and grounds are established without much difficulty.  However, in some cases, the defendant feels strongly that he or she did nothing wrong, and does not want the divorce.  In other cases, a defendant may have religious reasons to contest the divorce.  Finally, some clients are opposed to a divorce for financial reasons, such as loss of health insurance or because retirement benefits have not yet vested.

LOSS OF HEALTH INSURANCE IF PARTIES ARE DIVORCED

Most health insurance policies have language that only allows coverage for a spouse and dependent children.  After a divorce, a spouse is subject to getting kicked off their health insurance plan when the divorce is final.  If a client has a serious health concern or large expected medical expenses, then delaying a divorce may be beneficial to the client.  In such situations, contesting grounds may make sense for financial reasons.

VESTING OF RETIREMENT BENEFITS BEFORE GETTING DIVORCED

In Arkansas, the Supreme Court has held that non-vested retirement benefits are not considered marital property subject to division in a divorce.  See Burns v. Burns, 312 Ark. 61, 847 S.W.2d 23 (1993).  In that case, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that a military servicemember who had not reached twenty years of service did not have a vested retirement benefit, and his spouse was not entitled to an award of any of his retirement benefits. Therefore, if one party in a divorce case is nearing the time when his or her retirement benefits are vested, then delaying the divorce may allow the court to award the non-filing spouse his or her share of a substantial retirement benefit.

Knutson Law Firm has represented parties on both sides of this situation. We prepare each case so that the client knows the possible outcomes, and whether grounds for divorce should be an issue that should be contested or conceded.