When parents decide to separate or divorce in Arkansas, they need to address child custody. The state has specific considerations that guide how parents share time and make decisions on behalf of their children.
Understanding the state child custody laws can prepare you to negotiate a parenting agreement.
Types of child custody
Legal custody pertains to the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, including matters like:
- Religious upbringing
Legal custody can be joint, where parents share decision-making, or sole, where one parent has the authority to make decisions.
Physical custody refers to where the child will live and spend their time. Like legal custody, physical custody can also be sole or joint. However, Arkansas was the second state in the nation after Kentucky to adopt a presumption of 50/50 custody. Under this law, parents split time in half unless the court finds clear and convincing evidence that this arrangement would not support the child’s best interests.
The state encourages parents to create a parenting plan that outlines how they will share custody and responsibilities. This plan should address important details including the child’s living arrangements, visitation schedules, holiday arrangements and transportation.
When parents cannot agree, mediation can help them develop a mutually agreeable parenting plan. A mutual third party guides this negotiation process. Mediation can be a constructive way to resolve disputes and reduce the need for litigation.
Court-based custody determinations
If parents cannot reach an agreement even with mediation, the court will step in to determine child custody. The court will consider various factors including the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs and the child’s adjustment to their home, school and community.
The court’s primary consideration in custody matters is the best interests of the child. This standard guides the court’s decisions and ensures that the minor’s welfare and well-being are the top priorities.
When the court approves your parenting plan or makes a child custody determination, both parents must follow its guidelines under the law. Either parent can request modification in a substantial change of circumstances such as a residential move or change in employment.