Bentonville, AR Child Custody Attorney

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    It is always unfortunate when a couple cannot manage to come to an agreement concerning care and custody for a child. The child custody process is not only stressful for a parent, but it may also take a toll on the life of the child. That is why it is important to try to resolve a child custody issue as soon as possible. If you require legal assistance to litigate a child custody case, you should work with an experienced Bentonville child custody attorney today.

    Our attorneys can walk you through the defining characteristics of child custody, such as the difference between physical and legal custody, the criteria for making child custody determinations, and the ability to appeal or modify child custody arrangements through the court. Even in times of divorce, establishing stability in your child’s life is critical for their well-being. We can help you meet your goals.

    At Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP, we know how a child custody battle can affect a family, and we are here to offer you our legal services in your time of need. Our firm has vast experience litigating complex child custody cases, and we would be honored to work with you. To schedule a confidential legal consultation to discuss the details of your case, contact Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP at (479) 439-9840. You can also contact the firm online to schedule your consultation.

    Bentonville, AR Child Custody Laws

    Child custody can be a sensitive and stressful issue for a couple who have difficulty with co-parenting for any number of reasons. If parents cannot come to an agreement regarding child custody, they will have to resolve their issues in a court of law. In Arkansas, the courts can handle child custody issues that may stem from a number of scenarios like the divorce of a couple or paternity issues.

    When resolving child custody issues between parents, it is important to note that there are various forms of custody that parents may be awarded depending on the circumstances of the case. Courts may try to create balanced combinations in their determinations in order to keep both parents involved while also adhering to the best interests of the child.

    There are two forms of custody that courts must determine. Physical custody is how the courts determine where the child spends their time and which parent is in charge of day-to-day care of the child. When we think of custody generally, physical custody is the term that applies. The other form of custody is legal custody. A parent with legal custody has the ability to make major decisions on behalf of the child before they turn 18 or emancipate. Legal custody governs decisions on long-term childcare issues such as medical care, education, and participation in religious organizations or services.

    Joint Physical and Legal Custody

    Joint physical and legal custody is when the parents are awarded equal rights in regard to a number of factors like time spent with the child or decisions regarding the child’s future. For example, if one parent wants the child to attend school in a certain district, they must consult the other parent when making that decision.

    Joint Physical Custody

    Joint physical custody means that each parent only has equal rights concerning the amount of time they spend with the child. For example, one parent cannot live with the child for a month if they agreed upon rotating time with the child every week. Note, however, that each parent will not have equal rights for legal decisions made for a child.

    Joint Legal Custody

    Joint legal custody permits each parent to make vital decisions for their children. As mentioned, these decisions may include education, healthcare, religion, and many other decisions that could substantially affect a child. When parents share joint legal custody, no parent may make a decision without proper consultation and consent from the other, except in the case of emergency.

    Sole Legal and Physical Custody

    Sole legal and physical custody allows one parent to be completely responsible for all decisions concerning the child. This form of custody is typically only awarded in cases where the other parent is absent or has not shown the capability to properly care for the child. For example, if one spouse has an issue with drugs or gambling, this could be used as a factor to award sole legal and physical custody. Additionally, the parent with full custody does not have to consent to child visitation requests from the other parent.

    To learn more about the factors an Arkansas court may use to determine child custody, you should continue reading and work with an experienced Bentonville child custody lawyer.

    Factors that Can Affect Child Custody Hearings in Bentonville, AR

    There are a variety of factors that could affect child custody hearings. A court may look at some of the following factors when determining what type of custody to award to each parent.

    Child Preference

    If a child is old enough to meaningfully consider which parent they wish to live with, the court will consider the preference of the child. For example, if a child states they would like to spend an equal amount of time with each of their parents, the court will consider their wishes when making a determination. Note, however, that not all courts will consider the preferences of the child.

    Parent’s Financial Situation

    The financial situation of a parent is a large factor when determining child custody. The court will want to know whether the parent has the means to support the child and their needs. For example, if a parent is not employed when the custody hearing takes place, this will not work in their favor.

    Additionally, if a parent does not have enough space in their home for their child to live comfortably, this may also affect the custody hearing. If the parent’s current dwelling would not support physical custody but the parent has plans to move into a more suitable environment in the near future, the court will consider this and maybe even stipulate in the order that the arrangement change pending the parent completing their move.

    Parent Preferences

    In times past, the court would typically be inclined to reward a mother with custody of a child. However, courts have done away with making child custody decisions that typically benefit the mother in exchange for a totality of the circumstances approach. This means that fathers should not be worried that the court will not be open to their claims.

    Parent Character

    Courts are not immune to bias from information about the parents that may cause character concerns. If a parent has previously been convicted of a violent felony or struggled with addiction or drug use, courts are permitted to consider such information in their custody determination. Courts will pay particularly close attention to any allegations of abuse or domestic violence.

    Parent Work Schedules and Responsibilities

    While no parent should be punished for their occupational obligations, courts will look realistically at whether certain time constraints faced by a parent should warrant custody arrangements to reflect the lack of parenting time that may result due to a busy schedule. Remember, these decisions are made in the “best interests” of the child, irrespective of what is fair to the parents.

    Appealing or modifying child custody arrangements in Bentonville, AR

    Just because an Arkansas judge has ruled on your child custody case does not mean that the fight is over. You still have options under Arkansas law for appealing or adjusting the child custody order under certain circumstances.

    Child custody appeals process

    If you receive a decision from the trial court on child custody that you do not feel is fair under the circumstances, you have the right to appeal that decision. You can appeal to the Court of Appeals or the Arkansas Supreme Court if necessary. The appeals process is complex, and you should have the assistance of an attorney if you are interested in going down this path.  Often, there are time limits on how long you have to appeal a decision, so it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible about your appellate options.

    On appeal, Arkansas courts are limited on the grounds by which they can reverse a trial court’s decision. In other words, most of what the trial court finds will be final. If the trial court determines that a certain witness is credible, for instance, there is nothing that an appeals court can do about that.

    For this reason, it is important that you secure an attorney for the trial stage and not just for an appeal. Our Arkansas child custody attorneys can explain what issues would constitute grounds for a valid appeal so that you avoid spending time and money on a frivolous case that will not achieve your desired goal.

    Child custody modification process

    Arkansas law recognizes that situations may change over time, particularly as children grow and mature. In certain circumstances, a court will be receptive to a parent’s request to made adjustments to the original child custody order where those adjustments are warranted.

    In order to properly request that a court modify a child custody arrangement, the parent must file a formal motion with the court. An attorney can help you prepare and file this official court document.

    Depending on the reasoning for the request, the judge may order a temporary adjustment to the child custody arrangement pending a determination on the motion. In other words, if time is of the essence, the judge can decide to grant the custody change for now, prior to the hearing. The moving parent can also request an immediate hearing if the circumstances constitute an “emergency” that must be resolved as soon as possible.

    In their petition and subsequent hearing for modification of the child custody arrangement, the moving parent must demonstrate both of the following:

    • The circumstances of the parents and/or the child have significantly changed since the time of the original child custody order.
    • The proposed changes to the original child custody arrangement would be in the “best interests” of the child.

    Determinations on the “best interests” of the child are subjective and often depend on the discretion of the judge. Some judges will consider the best interests of the parent, as a parent’s happiness and continued involvement in the child’s life can be in the child’s best interest as well. However, judges are not obligated in any way to consider the interests of the parents.

    Contact Our Experienced Bentonville, AR Child Custody Attorney Today

    If you need legal assistance to battle your child custody case, you should consult with an experienced Bentonville child custody attorney today. At Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP, our skilled Fayetteville, AR family law attorneys are ready to provide you with legal representation that is tailored to your unique needs. To schedule a confidential legal consultation to discuss your child custody case, contact Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP at (479) 439-9840. You may also our online submission form to schedule your consultation.