When a couple divorces, all property from the marriage has to be divided. Legally speaking, the courts must turn 1 household into 2 separate households. One issue a court has to handle is property division, specifically Arkansas property division.
No one should proceed without the guidance of a licensed attorney who works in these cases. Property division laws can be complex, vary from state to state and lawyers have the proper training and experience to tell the judge what a divorcing spouse wants or needs from the property division.
Property Division Divorce Laws in Arkansas
The purpose of Arkansas property division laws is to make sure that Arkansas marital property is allocated equally to each spouse. If a 50-50 division would not be equitable, the courts turn to Arkansas state law, specifically the considerations of Arkansas Code Archive §9-12-315(a)(1)(A). However, Arkansas Code Archive §9-12-315(a)(1)(B) requires the court to list its basis and reasons for deviating from a 50-50 property division.
Arkansas is an equitable distribution state. This means that with regard to Arkansas divorce assets, anything the spouses had before a marriage usually will not be included in Arkansas divorce assets or Arkansas divorce property. The only property that comes into the court's distribution is that which is legally classified as property of the marriage subject to Arkansas Code Archive §9-12-315(b).
However, separate & non-marital property may converted into Arkansas divorce property if the trial judge feels this is necessary to make each spouse whole after the divorce. This is permitted under Arkansas Code Archive §9-12-315(a)(2) with the same requirement on the court to list its basis and reasons for it.
What is considered Marital and Non-Marital Property?
Arkansas marital property is classified as property acquired by either spouse after the marriage.
Non-marital property is defined under Arkansas Code Archive §9-12-315(b) as the following exemptions to marital property:
- Property acquired before marriage, by gift or by reason of the death of another
- Property acquired in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent
- Property acquired by a spouse after a decree of divorce from bed and board
- Property excluded by valid agreement of the parties
- An increase in value of property acquired before marriage, by gift or by reason of the death of another
- Benefits received or to be received from a workers' compensation claim, personal injury claim, or social security claim when those benefits are for permanent disability or future medical expenses
- Income from property owned prior to the marriage or from property acquired by gift or by reason of the death of another
Dividing Assets and Debt
After the court decides which property is available for distribution, the next step is property valuation. The last step is either a 50-50 division or property or the most equitable division the court can come up with using Arkansas Code Archive §9-12-315(a)(1)(A).
Under this statute, the court considers a number of factors in dividing assets and debt. Some of these are:
- The marriage's length
- The parties' age & health
- The parties' income amount & sources
- The federal income tax consequences of the court's division of property
Judges decide how a marriage's assets should be divided using a 50-50 split or statutory factors if a 50-50 split would be unfair to a spouse. Here is a list of the most common property items and the most common allocation scheme used.
- Cash: Divided equally among the spouses.
- Example 1: A joint savings account has $5,000. The court would award $2,500 to each spouse.
- Example 2: A joint savings account has $5,000. One spouse contributed $4,000 and the other contributed $1,000. The amount will be divided equally or based on the court's determination that one spouse would not be treated fairly under a 50-50 split.
- Retirement Plans: Divided in a 50-50
split of the amount accrued during the marriage.
- Example 1: A spouse got benefits in a retirement plan after working for 25 years and was married for 20 of those years. The ex-spouse would most likely be entitled to 50% of the income acquired during the 20 year marriage.
- Example 2: A spouse has an unvested retirement plan. No division takes place until the plan is payable to the spouse who has it.
- Vehicles: Divided based on the values at
the date determined by the court. May be
sold or given to a spouse outright under the 50-50 split.
- Example 1: A go-kart is owned by a spouse. The go-kart may be sold in a 50-50 split or the go-kart may be given to a spouse outright.
- Example 2: A car has a shared title. The car may be sold with the proceeds in a 50-50 split or the car may be given to a poorer spouse if a 50-50 split would be unfair.
- Insurance: Proceeds are divided based on
its classification as marital or separate property.
- Example: A spouse received insurance proceeds from a death taking place before the marriage. The court will most likely deem this separate property not subject to property division.
Settling Disputes in a Divorce Case with Property and Asset Division
Under Arkansas Code Archive §9-12-315(a)(3)(C), a party may bring a petition to court if the other party has not delivered or returned specific property under an order of property division. After ten days' notice to the opposing party, the court can hear and decide the matter.
The trial court gets wide discretion in making decisions on property division unless there is an abuse of discretion.
Help From an Arkansas Property Divorce Lawyer
Retaining an Arkansas property divorce lawyer is key to getting the most equitable result in the property division phase of a divorce. The lawyer can provide professional guidance, keep you informed of likely outcomes and help you present the best presentation to the trial judge handling the divorce.