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, 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.|
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.