A Basic Overview of Alimony in Arkansas Law
Alimony – also referred to as “spousal support” or “maintenance” – is among the most controversial topics in family law throughout the country. Here in the State of Arkansas, judges can award several different types of alimony, and they can also modify alimony arrangements if certain changes occur. The topic of alimony can be a bit complex in its finer points, and so in this post we would like to simplify things and provide a basic survey of alimony law in Arkansas. As with so many things in law, the answer to any given issue always requires a careful consideration of the unique facts of the situation. In this post, we’re just going to provide the basics so readers can get a sense of how this concept works.
Types of Alimony in AR
There are 3 distinct types of alimony which can be awarded in Arkansas: temporary, rehabilitative, and permanent. These 3 different types of alimony are awarded in different circumstances and are designed to fulfill separate purposes. Temporary alimony is awarded to spouses in order to provide support during the divorce process itself. As most people are aware, divorce can be a long, complicated process; judges will award temporary alimony if one spouse is in need of immediate, short-term assistance for the duration of the divorce process. Expectedly, temporary alimony orders end when the divorce process is completed, or when a judge terminates the order for another reason.
Rehabilitative alimony is the most common type of support awarded in the State of Arkansas. Essentially, rehabilitative alimony is designed to help the receiving spouse gain the skills, education or training necessary to improve his or her earning potential. The common rationale underlying such support is the fact that, oftentimes, one spouse must sacrifice career development outside the home in order to provide assistance within the home. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to “balance out” this phenomenon, and enable the lower-earning spouse to improve his or her career prospects. Frequently, a person cannot take the steps to improve his or her career prospects without financial assistance, and so alimony fills this gap.
The final type of support is called permanent alimony. Typically, permanent alimony is awarded only in cases in which one spouse has poor health or advanced age and, consequently, very low employment prospects. Permanent alimony is just as it sounds: it is a permanent situation involving financial assistance from one former spouse to the other. Where rehabilitative alimony is designed to cease when the receiving former spouse improves his or her prospects, permanent alimony is intended to remain in place indefinitely.
Alimony Awards Based on Independent Analysis
Contrary to how some other states determine alimony, the State of Arkansas does not utilize a fixed formula or set of guidelines when determining spousal support. The guiding principle considered is one spouse’s need vs. the other spouse’s ability to pay, and there are certain factors which Arkansas courts will consider when making a determination. For instance, the following factors are weighed when conducting an analysis:
- Length of the marriage
- The current standard of living within the marriage
- The conduct of each spouse within the marriage as it pertains to finances
- Each spouse’s current financial situation (this includes property acquired or lost in the
- The current and projected future financial prospects of each spouse
Again, courts in Arkansas will weigh these factors and consider all other relevant factors when making a determination in a given case. The Arkansas Supreme Court has used the figure of 20% of a spouse’s net (i.e. after-tax take home) pay as a suitable award in cases involving temporary alimony for a dependent spouse with custodial parenting status. The key point to absorb here is that judges in Arkansas have significant leeway when calculating alimony awards.
A person paying or receiving any one of the three types of alimony described above can petition the court for a review, a modification, or termination based upon a significant and material change in circumstances. . Unless otherwise agreed upon or ordered by the Court, support may also automatically terminate by operation of the law.
The information provided herein merely intended to give an overview of how alimony works here in Arkansas. A full treatment would require many articles. If you would like to learn more, or if you have a case you would like assistance with, reach out to the Davidson Law Firm today by calling 501-374-9977.