CUSTODY IN A DIVORCE

  • In a custody determination, the award of custody of a child of a marriage shall be made without regard to the sex of a parent. Moms and Dads have equal footing in a custody dispute.
  • The overall issue in a custody determination is what is in the best interests of the child.
  • In making this determination, the Court oftentimes appoints an attorney ad litem, more specifically, attorneys who represent the best interests of a child – not necessarily what the child wants.
  • There is no age, in Arkansas, when a child can pick where they want to live. Courts can listen to a child’s preference and, after taking into consideration the child’s age and maturity level, consider that as a factor in a custody determination. But it is only 1 factor in determining what is in the child’s best interests.
  • In an action for divorce, an award of joint custody is favored in Arkansas.
  • The burden of proof to modify a custody award is much higher. The petitioner must prove that there has been a material change in circumstances and that it is in the best interests of the child for custody to be modified.
Joint custody is becoming more and more common in Arkansas. Our custody statute has been amended to state that Joint Custody is “favored.”

JOINT CUSTODY

Joint Custody, per A.C.A. §9-13-101, means the approximate and reasonable equal division of time with the child by both parents individually as agreed to by the parents or as ordered by the Court.

A common schedule for a joint custody arrangement is a weekly rotation. Sometimes, the parent not having physical custody in a given week can pick the child up from school, or at 3:30 p.m. if the child is not in school and return the child by 8:00 p.m. or return the child to school the following morning, or to the other parent by 8:00 a.m. if the child is not in school.

Co-Parenting sessions can be extremely helpful, in both traditional custody and joint custody scenarios. For a list of counselors who offer these sessions click here.

Most Courts have a “Suggested Visitation Schedule” that is frequently implemented in a traditional primary custody and visitation scenario.

VISITATION

To view the current schedule in Washington and Madison Counties, click here.

To view the Benton County schedule, click here.

Benton County Judge Tom Smith has a Parenting Plan for joint custody. To see same, click here.