Family Law

Randall Wakefield’s areas of practice include family law, civil litigation, and criminal law. Randall has proven success litigating numerous contentious divorce cases involving large marital estates, child custody, and spousal support. He has years of trial experience, yet he will always explore alternative dispute resolution in an effort to avoid unnecessary litigation time and expense.

Divorce

Getting a divorce is typically a difficult time for the individuals and families involved. Having the knowledge regarding the process can help to alleviate the anxiety and uncertainty of beginning divorce proceedings. The requirements for getting a divorce in the State of Arkansas are set out by statute in Arkansas Code Title 9.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long does it take to get a divorce?

No two divorce cases are the same; however, Arkansas law requires that 30 days must elapse from the date a complaint for divorce has been filed. The length of time it takes to finalize a divorce will be dependent on the complexity of issues such as property, debt and children.

What are grounds for divorce?

The State of Arkansas requires that there be grounds for a divorce. The individual filing for divorce must prove their stated grounds for divorce before the divorce can be granted. Grounds for divorce are dictated by statute and are as follows:

  1. When either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is impotent;
  2. When either party shall be convicted of a felony or other infamous crime;
  3. When either party shall:
    1. Be addicted to habitual drunkenness for one year;
    2. Be guilty of such cruel and barbarous treatment as to endanger the life of the other; or
    3. Offer such indignities to the person of the other as shall render his or her condition intolerable;
    4. When either party shall have committed adultery subsequent to the marriage;
    5. When husband and wife have lived separate and apart from each other for eighteen (18) consecutive months without cohabitation;
    6. In all cases in which a husband and wife have lived separate and apart for three consecutive years without cohabitation by reason of the incurable insanity of one of them; and
    7. When either spouse legally obligated to support the other, and having the ability to provide the other with the common necessaries of life, willfully fails to do so.

Ordinarily, the grounds termed as “general indignities” is utilized in divorce cases.

How is child custody determined?

Unless otherwise agreed upon, primary custody of children is generally awarded to one party with the other party having rights to visitation with the children.  If the court must determine custody, it is awarded based on the welfare and best interests of the children, after a consideration of the following factors:

  1. The circumstances of the parents and children;
  2. The nature of the case;
  3. Which parent is most likely to allow frequent and continuing contact with the other parent; and
  4. Any acts of domestic  violence.

The sex of the parent is not a factor for decisions relating to child custody. In determining the best interest of the child, the court may consider the preferences of the child if the child is of a sufficient age and capacity to reason, regardless of chronological age.

When is joint custody appropriate?

Generally, joint custody is only appropriate in situations where the parties agree to share the child’s time and work together amicably in all matters relating to the child. The court, in its discretion may award joint custody, but that finding is extremely rare due to the volatility involved in bringing a case to trial.

What is the visitation schedule for non-custodial parents?

Visitation schedules may vary with each and every family. The court gives great deference to families in determining what schedule best works for the schedules and activities of the parents and children where the family makes an agreement on such a schedule. As a guideline, most counties in Arkansas provide a Standard Visitation Schedule which may be obtained from the Circuit Clerk of each county or contact our office.

How is child support determined?

Child support is dictated by the Supreme Court of Arkansas in the Arkansas Family Support Chart outlined in Administrative Order No. 10. It is based on income and number of children. Parties may vary from this chart by agreement. The court may vary from the chart based on the circumstances of the parents and child and the nature of the case. The amount in the Arkansas Family Support Chart is presumed correct unless the court finds that the amount would be inappropriate or unjust.

When is alimony appropriate?

When a decree of divorce is entered, the court may make orders concerning the alimony of the wife or the husband as are reasonable from the circumstances of the parties, from the need of the party requesting alimony,  and from consideration of the following:

  1. The length of the marriage;
  2. Age, health, and station in life of the parties;
  3. Occupation of the parties;
  4. Amount and sources of income;
  5. Vocational skills;
  6. Employability;
  7. Estate, liabilities, and needs of each party and opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income;
  8. Contribution of each party in acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of marital property, including services as a homemaker; and
  9. The federal income tax consequences of the court’s division of property.

How does the court divide real and personal property?

Property is awarded to the individual who owned the property prior to the marriage. For property purchased during the marriage, if the parties do not agree to a division of said property, the court may at its discretion make an equitable division or order that the property be auctioned and the proceeds divided between the parties.

Can I change my name to my maiden name in my divorce?

Regardless of who petitions the court for divorce, a wife may return to her name prior to the marriage upon request in the Decree of Divorce.

Paternity

In order for a biological father to establish parental rights when a child is born out of wedlock, he must petition the court for paternity in order to establish his rights to visitation and/or custody. This cause of action may be brought by the mother or the father. Even if a father has signed an affidavit establishing he is the father and is named on the child’s birth certificate this cause of action is necessary. Petitions for Paternity may also establish child support, change the name of the child to the father’s last name, and make other findings necessary to establish a relationship with the child and the father.

Custody/Visitation

After a divorce or determination of paternity, situations arise which require a change in custody and/or visitation. Once a custody determination or agreement has been ordered by the court, the standard for determining custody and visitation changes. While the best interest of the child is still taken into consideration by the court, the petitioning party must show the court that there has been a material change in circumstances from the time the last custody order was entered. That material change in circumstances must have a detrimental impact on the child or children and the court must determine that it is in the best interest in the child for a change in custody.

Visitation changes arise when the current visitation schedule is no longer practical due to a move, change in work position, or other issue. The court will again look at the best interest of the children and what will provide the most stable environment for the children while maintaining a relationship with both parents.

Annulment

Unlike a divorce, an annulment makes it as if a marriage never happened legally. This is not an escape route for normal marriages; rather, is appropriate in certain circumstances. Some situations include where a previous marriage exists prior to the marriage; where the marriage was obtained through fraud or duress; where one party lacked the mental capacity to enter into the marriage; and the determination that the parties are related.

Child Support

Child support is dictated by the Supreme Court of Arkansas in the Arkansas Family Support Chart outlined in Administrative Order No. 10. It is based on income and number of children. Parties may vary from this chart by agreement. The court may vary from the chart based on the circumstances of the parents and child and the nature of the case. The amount in the Arkansas Family Support Chart is presumed correct unless the court finds that the amount would be inappropriate or unjust.

Child Support may be adjusted after an original order my petitioning the court for a modification.  Either party may petition the court for an adjustment based on the current income of the paying parent. The court will require the parties to complete an Affidavit of Financial Means which provides the court a detailed look at the financial situation of the parties involved.

Adoption

Traditional Adoption:

In Arkansas, a birth mother may relinquish her parental rights before the birth of the child. Following birth, she has 10 days to unconditionally withdraw her adoption consent. When the court order is filed on day 11, the adoption is final, meaning the birth mother can no longer revoke her consent unless she can prove she was tricked by fraud or deceit. In many states, there is a longer waiting period and the final order of adoption is not entered for 30, 60 or 90 days. The adoption may be completed in Arkansas if either the birth mother or the adopting parents are residents. The birth father is required to register with the state of Arkansas prior to the filing of the petition for adoption. Otherwise, he has no rights and is therefore not entitled to notice or sign an adoption consent. If the birth mother is married, written consent from the husband is required. The 10-day waiting period begins the day following birth, or the day after the consent to adopt was signed, whichever occurs last. While the 10 days are calendar days, the 10th day cannot occur on a day the courthouse is closed (i.e., weekends or holidays). In such cases, the next business day would be considered the 10th day, and the adoption may occur on the following day. During the 10 days, the baby will stay with you, but may not be removed from the state of Arkansas.

Step-parent Adoption:

Step-parents may adopt the children of their spouse taking on the legal and financial responsibilities of the children’s natural parent. The biological parent will be notified of the hearing on the matter and will have an opportunity to contest the matter. In some situations, it is not necessary to provide notice to the biological parent, such as in the case of abandonment which is defined by the court as a lack of significant contact or support for a year or more.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements

With a prenuptial agreement you can:

  • protect your separate property
  • support your estate plan
  • define what property is marital property and separate property
  • reduce conflicts and save money if you divorce
  • clarify special agreements
  • establish procedures and ground rules for deciding future matters

You should consider getting a prenuptial agreement if:

  • Have assets such as a home, stock or retirement funds
  • Own all or part of a business
  • You may be receiving an inheritance
  • You have children and/or grandchildren from a previous marriage
  • One of you is much wealthier than the other
  • One of you will be supporting the other through college
  • You have loved ones who need to be taken care of, such as elderly parents
  • You have or are pursuing a degree or license in a potentially lucrative profession such as medicine, law or finance
  • You foresee a large increase in income because your business is growing

Always discuss a prenuptial agreement with your partner prior to drafting. It is advised that both individuals hire their own attorney before entering into such an agreement.

Family Law

Randall Wakefield’s areas of practice include family law, civil litigation, and criminal law. Randall has proven success litigating numerous contentious divorce cases involving large marital estates, child custody, and spousal support. He has years of trial experience, yet he will always explore alternative dispute resolution in an effort to avoid unnecessary litigation time and expense.
Divorce

Getting a divorce is typically a difficult time for the individuals and families involved. Having the knowledge regarding the process can help to alleviate the anxiety and uncertainty of beginning divorce proceedings. The requirements for getting a divorce in the State of Arkansas are set out by statute in Arkansas Code Title 9.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long does it take to get a divorce?

No two divorce cases are the same; however, Arkansas law requires that 30 days must elapse from the date a complaint for divorce has been filed. The length of time it takes to finalize a divorce will be dependent on the complexity of issues such as property, debt and children.

What are grounds for divorce?

The State of Arkansas requires that there be grounds for a divorce. The individual filing for divorce must prove their stated grounds for divorce before the divorce can be granted. Grounds for divorce are dictated by statute and are as follows:

  1. When either party, at the time of the contract, was and still is impotent;
  2. When either party shall be convicted of a felony or other infamous crime;
  3. When either party shall:
    1. Be addicted to habitual drunkenness for one year;
    2. Be guilty of such cruel and barbarous treatment as to endanger the life of the other; or
    3. Offer such indignities to the person of the other as shall render his or her condition intolerable;
    4. When either party shall have committed adultery subsequent to the marriage;
    5. When husband and wife have lived separate and apart from each other for eighteen (18) consecutive months without cohabitation;
    6. In all cases in which a husband and wife have lived separate and apart for three consecutive years without cohabitation by reason of the incurable insanity of one of them; and
    7. When either spouse legally obligated to support the other, and having the ability to provide the other with the common necessaries of life, willfully fails to do so.

Ordinarily, the grounds termed as “general indignities” is utilized in divorce cases.

How is child custody determined?

Unless otherwise agreed upon, primary custody of children is generally awarded to one party with the other party having rights to visitation with the children.  If the court must determine custody, it is awarded based on the welfare and best interests of the children, after a consideration of the following factors:

  1. The circumstances of the parents and children;
  2. The nature of the case;
  3. Which parent is most likely to allow frequent and continuing contact with the other parent; and
  4. Any acts of domestic  violence.

The sex of the parent is not a factor for decisions relating to child custody. In determining the best interest of the child, the court may consider the preferences of the child if the child is of a sufficient age and capacity to reason, regardless of chronological age.

When is joint custody appropriate?

Generally, joint custody is only appropriate in situations where the parties agree to share the child’s time and work together amicably in all matters relating to the child. The court, in its discretion may award joint custody, but that finding is extremely rare due to the volatility involved in bringing a case to trial.

What is the visitation schedule for non-custodial parents?

Visitation schedules may vary with each and every family. The court gives great deference to families in determining what schedule best works for the schedules and activities of the parents and children where the family makes an agreement on such a schedule. As a guideline, most counties in Arkansas provide a Standard Visitation Schedule which may be obtained from the Circuit Clerk of each county or contact our office.

How is child support determined?

Child support is dictated by the Supreme Court of Arkansas in the Arkansas Family Support Chart outlined in Administrative Order No. 10. It is based on income and number of children. Parties may vary from this chart by agreement. The court may vary from the chart based on the circumstances of the parents and child and the nature of the case. The amount in the Arkansas Family Support Chart is presumed correct unless the court finds that the amount would be inappropriate or unjust.

When is alimony appropriate?

When a decree of divorce is entered, the court may make orders concerning the alimony of the wife or the husband as are reasonable from the circumstances of the parties, from the need of the party requesting alimony,  and from consideration of the following:

  1. The length of the marriage;
  2. Age, health, and station in life of the parties;
  3. Occupation of the parties;
  4. Amount and sources of income;
  5. Vocational skills;
  6. Employability;
  7. Estate, liabilities, and needs of each party and opportunity of each for further acquisition of capital assets and income;
  8. Contribution of each party in acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of marital property, including services as a homemaker; and
  9. The federal income tax consequences of the court’s division of property.

How does the court divide real and personal property?

Property is awarded to the individual who owned the property prior to the marriage. For property purchased during the marriage, if the parties do not agree to a division of said property, the court may at its discretion make an equitable division or order that the property be auctioned and the proceeds divided between the parties.

Can I change my name to my maiden name in my divorce?

Regardless of who petitions the court for divorce, a wife may return to her name prior to the marriage upon request in the Decree of Divorce.

Paternity

In order for a biological father to establish parental rights when a child is born out of wedlock, he must petition the court for paternity in order to establish his rights to visitation and/or custody. This cause of action may be brought by the mother or the father. Even if a father has signed an affidavit establishing he is the father and is named on the child’s birth certificate this cause of action is necessary. Petitions for Paternity may also establish child support, change the name of the child to the father’s last name, and make other findings necessary to establish a relationship with the child and the father.

Custody/Visitation

After a divorce or determination of paternity, situations arise which require a change in custody and/or visitation. Once a custody determination or agreement has been ordered by the court, the standard for determining custody and visitation changes. While the best interest of the child is still taken into consideration by the court, the petitioning party must show the court that there has been a material change in circumstances from the time the last custody order was entered. That material change in circumstances must have a detrimental impact on the child or children and the court must determine that it is in the best interest in the child for a change in custody.

Visitation changes arise when the current visitation schedule is no longer practical due to a move, change in work position, or other issue. The court will again look at the best interest of the children and what will provide the most stable environment for the children while maintaining a relationship with both parents.

Annulment

Unlike a divorce, an annulment makes it as if a marriage never happened legally. This is not an escape route for normal marriages; rather, is appropriate in certain circumstances. Some situations include where a previous marriage exists prior to the marriage; where the marriage was obtained through fraud or duress; where one party lacked the mental capacity to enter into the marriage; and the determination that the parties are related.

Child Support

Child support is dictated by the Supreme Court of Arkansas in the Arkansas Family Support Chart outlined in Administrative Order No. 10. It is based on income and number of children. Parties may vary from this chart by agreement. The court may vary from the chart based on the circumstances of the parents and child and the nature of the case. The amount in the Arkansas Family Support Chart is presumed correct unless the court finds that the amount would be inappropriate or unjust.

Child Support may be adjusted after an original order my petitioning the court for a modification.  Either party may petition the court for an adjustment based on the current income of the paying parent. The court will require the parties to complete an Affidavit of Financial Means which provides the court a detailed look at the financial situation of the parties involved.

Adoption

Traditional Adoption:

In Arkansas, a birth mother may relinquish her parental rights before the birth of the child. Following birth, she has 10 days to unconditionally withdraw her adoption consent. When the court order is filed on day 11, the adoption is final, meaning the birth mother can no longer revoke her consent unless she can prove she was tricked by fraud or deceit. In many states, there is a longer waiting period and the final order of adoption is not entered for 30, 60 or 90 days. The adoption may be completed in Arkansas if either the birth mother or the adopting parents are residents. The birth father is required to register with the state of Arkansas prior to the filing of the petition for adoption. Otherwise, he has no rights and is therefore not entitled to notice or sign an adoption consent. If the birth mother is married, written consent from the husband is required. The 10-day waiting period begins the day following birth, or the day after the consent to adopt was signed, whichever occurs last. While the 10 days are calendar days, the 10th day cannot occur on a day the courthouse is closed (i.e., weekends or holidays). In such cases, the next business day would be considered the 10th day, and the adoption may occur on the following day. During the 10 days, the baby will stay with you, but may not be removed from the state of Arkansas.

Step-parent Adoption:

Step-parents may adopt the children of their spouse taking on the legal and financial responsibilities of the children’s natural parent. The biological parent will be notified of the hearing on the matter and will have an opportunity to contest the matter. In some situations, it is not necessary to provide notice to the biological parent, such as in the case of abandonment which is defined by the court as a lack of significant contact or support for a year or more.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements

With a prenuptial agreement you can:

  • protect your separate property
  • support your estate plan
  • define what property is marital property and separate property
  • reduce conflicts and save money if you divorce
  • clarify special agreements
  • establish procedures and ground rules for deciding future matters

You should consider getting a prenuptial agreement if:

  • Have assets such as a home, stock or retirement funds
  • Own all or part of a business
  • You may be receiving an inheritance
  • You have children and/or grandchildren from a previous marriage
  • One of you is much wealthier than the other
  • One of you will be supporting the other through college
  • You have loved ones who need to be taken care of, such as elderly parents
  • You have or are pursuing a degree or license in a potentially lucrative profession such as medicine, law or finance
  • You foresee a large increase in income because your business is growing

Always discuss a prenuptial agreement with your partner prior to drafting. It is advised that both individuals hire their own attorney before entering into such an agreement.

Phones answered 24/7. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

The Wilkinson Law Firm is based in Bentonville, AR and handles cases all over the State of Arkansas. The Northwest Arkansas region is the firm’s primary practice area including: Bentonville, AR, Rogers, AR, Fayetteville, AR, Springdale, AR, Bella Vista, AR, Eureka Springs, AR. The Wilkinson Law Firm regularly accepts high profile cases from all over the State of Arkansas.

Phones answered 24/7. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

The Wilkinson Law Firm is based in Bentonville, AR and handles cases all over the State of Arkansas. The Northwest Arkansas region is the firm’s primary practice area including: Bentonville, AR, Rogers, AR, Fayetteville, AR, Springdale, AR, Bella Vista, AR, Eureka Springs, AR. The Wilkinson Law Firm regularly accepts high profile cases from all over the State of Arkansas.

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