The Basics of Arkansas Child Custody Agreements

A divorce can be an extremely difficult thing to experience. An acrimonious divorce can be both physically and mentally exhausting. Things can get even more challenging when a child is involved. Parents who are preparing to undergo a divorce in Arkansas tend to have many questions on their mind. In this post, we will go over a few of the most common issues involving child custody agreements here in Arkansas. Hopefully, this information can be useful in answering many of the basic questions which parents frequently have.


Legal Custody / Physical Custody


The first issue we should touch on is the distinction between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to decision-making power over a child; this applies to critical decisions which affect the welfare or direction of a child, such as schooling, disciplinary actions, and so forth. Physical custody is exactly what it sounds like: physically residing with the child.

As a general matter, Arkansas law tends to prefer that parents have joint legal and physical custody over children. You may have heard this referred to as “true joint custody.” This means that both parents share equally (to the extent possible) in both the decision-making and the housing of the child. However, depending on the situation, some parents can obtain sole physical custody over a child. In these cases, this parent is referred to as the primary custodial parent. Legal and physical custody can be divided in many ways. The custody arrangement of any given case is intended to be tailored to meet the needs of that particular case.


Parents Can Submit Their Own Private Agreement


In many cases, the parents themselves are able to privately reach a custody agreement. Private custody agreements can be negotiated among attorneys representing the parents, by the parents themselves, or in collaboration with a mediator in a procedure called “mediation.” If parents develop their own private agreement, this does not mean that this agreement will be enforced by the court automatically. Parents will need to submit their private custody agreement to the court for review. A judge can approve, amend or reject the proposal, depending on what is needed in that situation.


Judges Adhere to the “Child’s Best Interests” Doctrine in AR


Recently, new legislation was signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson which will have an  impact on custody determinations once the new law goes into effect late this summer. Regardless of its impact, the best interest of the child is and will remain the standard for determining custody.

When a judge in Arkansas reviews any custody agreement, or makes a ruling on custody, that judge will use the “child’s best interests” standard. This means that the judge will analyze a given situation to ensure that the child’s best interests are served. In conducting this type of analysis, judges will take a holistic view and consider all relevant factors to make a determination. For example, the relative stability (economic, social, etc.) of each parent is one of several factors which the Court will weigh in its best interest analysis.

It is important to remember that every situation is unique, and so the court will conduct an independent assessment in each case.


Contact DLF for Additional Information


This is only meant to serve as an introduction to the topic of custody agreements in Arkansas. Things can quickly get complex when you introduce certain variables, such as one parent’s desire to relocate, or modify an existing agreement. In the future, we may return and discuss this topic in greater depth. For more information, give the Davidson Law Firm a call today at 501- 374-9977.


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