General Definitions


Payments made to a separated or divorced spouse as ordered in a divorce decree, temporary order, or separation agreement. Before the divorce occurs, alimony is also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance.

Child Custody

Custody involves rights regarding a minor child and encompasses legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right of a parent to make major decisions affecting the minor child’s life. Physical custody is usually defined as the right to have the minor child the majority of the time. Parties can share legal and/or physical custody.

Child Support

Set payments made by a parent to the other parent to help support his or her child after a divorce, separation, or paternity action. Payments are generally made through the Arkansas Child Support Clearinghouse, but may be made through the Circuit Clerk’s Office in the county where the support order is filed.

Covenant Marriage

Couples contract to enter into this statutorily created type of marriage by declaring their intent on their application for a marriage license and executing a declaration of intent to contract a marriage with their application, or by filing the necessary paperwork to re-designate their marriage as a covenant marriage. Divorce is possible in a covenant marriage, but the requirements for obtaining a divorce are usually more complicated than non-covenant marriages.

Divorce (Also known as the Dissolution of Marriage)

A judicial termination of the marriage based upon eighteen months separation or specific cause. A divorce is finalized upon the approval of a decree by a judge and the filing of the decree with the Circuit Clerk’s office.

Divorce from Bed and Board

A judicial determination of the financial obligations between spouses without terminating the marriage. Neither party can remarry.

Modification of Decrees and Orders

A judicial change by agreement or court order of a divorce decree, paternity decree, or other order of the Court that supersedes the previous decree or order.

Paternity Action

Initiating a petition by either parent to adjudicate the parentage of a child and award custody, visitation and child support. The biological mother may recover lying in expenses (certain costs associated with the pregnancy and birth) from the biological father.

Pre-Marital Agreement (Also known as a Prenuptial Agreement)

A legal contract between a couple that later marries which dictates how property and debt will be divided and how alimony will be awarded in the event the couple divorces.