Divorce, Custody and Support

Skilled Representation of Clients in Divorce, Custody and Support Cases

Divorce, custoBenton, Arkansas Attorneydy and support attorney Gregg Knutson guides clients through the process of a divorce, legal separation, custody dispute, guardianship, adoption, or other family law cases. For a free, confidential consultation, call me at (501)224-2928. Before signing a divorce decree, property settlement agreement, be sure to have an experienced attorney review the settlement proposal to make sure you are getting what you deserve.

Grounds for Divorce

In Arkansas, parties are required to furnish proof of a party’s grounds for divorce before a divorce can be granted. The Arkansas Code lists several grounds for divorce, including general indignities, adultery, habitual drunkenness, domestic violence (cruelty), conviction of a felony, and separation for eighteen months. Knutson Law Firm is prepared to fight for your rights and require the opposing party to prove their grounds for divorce. In contested cases, you have the right to require a trial concerning grounds for divorce or any other matter in dispute.

Division of Property

Division of property can be a contentious area in a divorce case. All property acquired by either party during the marriage is considered marital property, and is subject to division by the court. The only exceptions are property that was received by gift or inheritance, a workers’ compensation claim, personal injury claim, or social security claim when those benefits are for any degree of permanent disability or future medical expenses. Retirement accounts are usually subject to division, if contributions were made to the account during the marriage. 401k plans, IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, SEP plans, and military retirement plans are all subject to complicated rules for division, and an attorney can help you evaluate your options.

Support and Custody

Knutson Law Firm is prepared to fight for our client’s rights when it comes to child support, child custody, and spousal support.  Arkansas courts are required to set child support with reference to the Arkansas Child Support Guidelines found in Arkansas Supreme Court Administrative Rule No. 10. Judges in Arkansas are required to award the custodial spouse the amount of child support stated in the Arkansas Child Support Guidelines, unless there are good reasons for deviating from the child support chart.  Custody decisions always hinge on the best interests of the child.  An experienced attorney can help identify facts and testimony that will help the court make an informed decision, so that the best interests of the child are protected.  In Arkansas, the courts are increasingly choosing to award joint custody.  Until 2013, joint custody was disfavored.  In 2013, the Arkansas legislature passed a new law that states that joint custody is favored.  Under the law as it currently exists, an award of joint custody is a very real possibility in Arkansas.

Spousal support is most often awarded in situations where one spouse has not worked for a substantial period of time, and the other spouse has the ability to pay.

Divorce Basics

The general process of filing a divorce is started by the filing of a Complaint for Divorce in the circuit court of the county where one of the parties resides. Upon the filing of the Complaint, the circuit court clerk will issue a Summons.  These documents must then be served upon the opposing party by certified mail, personal delivery, or constructive service by publication.  After service, the opposing party has thirty days to respond to the Complaint. All divorce cases must remain open a minimum of thirty days before a judge can grant the divorce, except for cases alleging continuous separation for eighteen months.

Discovery Process

If there are complex issues involving custody, support, visitation, or division of property, your attorney will likely conduct send written questions to the opposing party called “interrogatories and requests for production of documents”.  These written questions must be answered, under oath, within thirty days after receipt. An attorney may also schedule a deposition, so that he can ask the other spouse or witnesses about their expected testimony. A deposition is conducted in the presence of a court reporter, and a transcript is prepared to be used at trial or during settlement discussions.

Temporary Hearings

A temporary hearing is sometimes required to address temporary custody, support, visitation, division of marital debts, and temporary possession of marital property before the case is finalized. Since a complex divorce case can last several months, it may be important for a judge to decide these issues on a temporary basis. Before a temporary hearing, the parties are required to exchange an Affidavit of Financial Means, which will be used by the court in setting child support. In some cases, a temporary order can be negotiated between the parties without a hearing.

Final Divorce Hearing

At the final hearing, the judge will hear testimony from the parties and any witnesses that are necessary to corroborate grounds, residency, or other contested issues.  Expert witnesses may be necessary in cases involving complex financial valuations, medical conditions, or psychological evaluations.  If the court determines that sufficient grounds exist to grant the divorce, the judge will announce their decision.  The decision by the judge will include provisions concerning child custody, child support, visitation, division of property, marital debts, and spousal support.

To avoid the uncertainty of trial, an experienced attorney will frequently suggest ideas for settlement. In some cases, settlement is not possible, and an experienced family law attorney can guide the client through the litigation process.  Because divorce law can be complicated, be sure to contact an attorney for help before signing a Decree or otherwise waiving your rights. An attorney can help advise you whether a settlement offer is in your best interests, or whether you would be better served by going to trial. Many clients simply want to “get out” of a bad marriage, without thinking about the long term consequences of the provisions in a Decree. Be sure to contact Knutson Law Firm at (501)224-2928 to schedule an appointment to evaluate your case.