Frequently Asked Questions About Custody
Nothing is more important to parents than their children. The unfortunate reality of divorce is that children are unable to spend the same amount of time with both parents as they were before their parents divorced. When representing mothers and fathers in cases involving the custody of children, we strongly encourage parents to put the interests of the children first and to seek a fair custody agreement that protects the best interests of the children. In cases when mutual agreement is not possible, our firm aggressively advocates for the parental rights of the clients we represent.
We handle all types of custody cases including simple and high-conflict child custody cases. High-conflict custody cases often involve sexual abuse allegations, domestic violence, or drug or alcohol abuse where limitations on the parent-child relationship are being sought, such as no contact, limited contact, supervised contact between parent and child and alienation of affection. These cases are often highly complex, and it is critical that they be managed strategically by a lawyer from the very beginning of the case.
If an agreement between the parents cannot be reached, then Arkansas Circuit Courts will make the final decision about what the structure of child custody should be. Arkansas has a starting point of true joint physical custody that is equal to parenting time with both parents and the child. However, Arkansas uses the “best interests of the child standard” to make a determination if deviation from true joint custody is appropriate. This standard gives the judge discretion to use any facts it deems important and relevant in making these decisions.
The term joint custody in Arkansas is a relatively hollow term with many different interpretations, but is commonly used synonymously with joint physical custody. Joint physical custody allows both parents to participate in the physical custody and decision-making involved in raising the child equally sharing time with the children. Sole custody is often awarded in Arkansas, but when granted it gives one parent physical custody of the child and the other parent usually only gets more limited time with the child including alternating weekends, holidays and summers. Often times in cases of sole custody, the noncustodial parent receives limited or supervised visitation with the child.
Judges are not supposed to have automatic biases for one sex to have custody over another. However, mothers traditionally spend more time with the children than the fathers, and judges may weigh this factor heavily when balancing the factors that impact child custody decisions.
Arkansas courts consider child support and visitation to be separate issues. If a custody order is set with a visitation schedule, you should not refuse visitation for refusing to pay child support without a court order allowing you to do so.
Child custody is determined after the filing of a paternity petition or Complaint for Divorce. Parties often enter into agreements voluntarily out of court if both parents are able to reach a common understanding about what is best for the child with said agreements requiring court ratification. If the parties are unable to agree, then the matter of custody is placed before the Circuit Court for determination as part of a paternity or divorce action.
Yes. Arkansas allows changes to custody orders if there has been a material change in circumstances warranting an amendment to the order in whole or in part. There are no strict guidelines about what a material change in circumstances is, but usually requires a change in the household situation impacting the children.
Arkansas Circuit Courts look at the entirety of the circumstances to decide what is in the best interest of your child. There are no hard and fast guidelines about what judges must look at in deciding what is in the best interest of the child. Judges have the discretion to look at any important and relevant facts in making determinations about the best interests of a child.
The courts are always trying to look out for the safety and well-being of children involved in a custody dispute. On the other hand, the laws of Arkansas favor both parents being involved in the upbringing of children. For a court to order supervised or no visitation, they must be persuaded that harm will likely be done to the child if they are alone with the parent.