Arkansas law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the "best interest" of the child.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how divorcing parents will share legal and physical custody of their children. In Arkansas, parenting plans are encouraged but are not mandatory. If parents cannot agree on a plan, they may be ordered to mediate their dispute. If mediation is unsuccessful, the court will evaluate their case and assign custody.
What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?
Arkansas courts balance a series of factors when determining the best interest of a child. These factors include:
- Each parent’s emotional bond with the child and their willingness to parent,
- The parents’ ability to provide for the child’s material needs,
- The parents’ character and moral fitness,
- The parents’ criminal records,
- The history of contact between the parents and the child,
- The importance of sibling and other familial relationships,
- The child’s need for stability, and
- Evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse, and
- The child’s reasonable preference (if age appropriate).
A parent’s gender is not considered as a factor. However, evidence of domestic violence or abuse can prevent an abusive parent from gaining custody. In a custody dispute, the court may also order home studies and appoint an attorney ad litem. An attorney ad litem is assigned to advocate for the child and help assess his or her best interests.
What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?
Once the parenting plan and divorce order are signed, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved custody order and the court must approve any modification of the plan.
Should I Contact an Arkansas Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?
Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, it is important that you speak with an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.