When a married couple decides to end their relationship, they file for divorce and begin untangling their lives. If the couple had children during the course of their marriage, they will also need to decide on the custody of those children after they are no longer together. Child custody cases can often be very emotional and difficult for the parents and children involved. For those couples who will be dealing with child custody in Arkansas, they will need to be fluent in the child custody laws for that state.
Child Custody Laws in Arkansas
The Arkansas court system, and many other state court systems across the country, will always put the children’s best interests above anything else when deciding a child custody case. When a child custody case is being decided, family court judges will be looking at a number of different factors to help them make the best possible, most educated decision for the children. Recent studies on children of divorced parents have found keeping both parents involved in the children’s lives is vitally important to their mental and emotional state, both during the divorce and after the couple’s relationship has ended.
What Determines Child Custody in Arkansas
There are a number of factors Arkansas family judges will look at when determining child custody. The children’s best interest is always top priority, so the judge will look at each factor and decide what outcome is best for the children and will help to keep both parents involved in their lives over the long term. Arkansas will always work toward a joint custody agreement, or as close as it can get to it, in order to keep both parents involved. Some of the areas examined include:
- Both parents abilities to provide shelter for the children that is safe and appropriate
- Both parents abilities to provide food, clothing, and education for the children
- Both parents ability to make educated, proper decisions regarding the children’s upbringing including their health, education, religious upbringing, and involvement in the community
- Both parents willingness to communicate with one another to make important decisions regarding the children
- Both parents willingness to foster a loving, positive relationship between the children and the other parent
All of the factors outlined above will carry weight when it comes time for an Arkansas family court judge to make a decision about the proper child custody arrangement. In addition to these factors, the judge will look into a number of other factors to make the final ruling. Again, the children’s best interest and well-being are of the utmost importance – this means that, even if the parents request custody to be handled one way, if it does not benefit the children, it will not be considered in the final decision.
Types of Child Custody in Arkansas
Just like other states, Arkansas family court judges have a number of options when it comes to a type of arrangement they can choose. Some of these options include sole physical custody, sole legal custody, and visitation rights. The one custody arrangement family court judges will always strive for is joint custody which can be joint legal, joint physical, or both. This decision is ideal when the judge is trying to keep both parents equally involved in the children’s lives in order to provide them with a stable and consistent upbringing. Some of the considerations are:
- Can the parents come up with an effective parenting plan on their own?
- Can the parents effectively and respectfully communicate with one another to make the right decisions for their children?
- Do the parents live geographically close enough where transporting children between homes would be feasible?
- Can the parents help to encourage a positive and close relationship between the children and the other parent, as well as the other parent’s extended family?
- Are there any suspicions of abuse that would make one of the parents having custody of the children a cause for concern? This isn’t limited to child abuse but can include spousal or general abuse.
Child Custody Modification in Arkansas
Whether the child custody arrangement is handed down by the judge or agreed upon by the parents, there may come a point in time when a modification to the agreement is needed or desired. In some cases, both parents can agree to this modification on their own and simply have an Arkansas judge sign off on it. In other cases, one parent is requesting a change that the other parent will not agree to – in these cases, the parent who desires the modification will need to petition the court to approve it.
Arkansas family courts take modifications to child custody agreements very seriously – it is strongly believed that stability and consistency is important for children from divorced families in order for them to continue to thrive and grow into functioning adults. If modifications are constantly made to an agreement, it can cause distributions in the children’s lives that can negatively affect their well-being. This is why modifications must be reviewed before being approved.
When parents make a request for a child custody agreement change, they have to carry all the burden of proof as to why the modification is needed and how it will benefit the children. The areas they will need to prove include:
- A valid reason as to why the modification to the agreement should be made
- Whether or not the other parent has any issues with the modification
- How the modification will benefit the children and improve their quality of life
- Will the benefits of the child custody agreement modification outweigh the disruptions the change will cause in their lives
Child Custody and Relocation in Arkansas
One of the most controversial reasons why parents may request a modification to a child custody agreement is if they wish to relocate to another area and have the children move with them. There are a number of reasons why a parent may want to move, including being closer to family, for a employment opportunity, or so the children will have better educational opportunities. Again, a relocation request is not taken lightly and the parent making the request will need to prove why the move will be beneficial to the children. Some of the areas the Arkansas family court system will consider include:
- The reason for why the parent making the request wants to relocate
- What benefits the relocation will provide for the children including better education, more financial stability, or bring closer to family members
- If the parents agree to the relocation or if one of the parents opposes it
- How the move will affect the children’s well-being
Child custody issues are often hard to deal with, for both the parents and the judges involved in the cases. The most important thing to remember during this trying time is that the children and their well-being is the highest priority and whatever decision is made needs to be what is best for them.