Child custody can be a tough issue to deal with, especially when two parents have opposing viewpoints on what is best for a child. Fortunately, Arkansas has a comprehensive set of laws that could help parents and the court determine how child custody should be handled between two parents. If you are in a custody battle for your child, you should speak with an experienced Fayetteville, AR child custody lawyer. At Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP, we understand the stress that comes with handling a sensitive topic like child custody, and we are here to help you find a desirable solution to your child custody problem. Our skilled Arkansas child custody lawyers have worked on a variety of child custody matters, and we would be pleased to provide you with the legal representation that you deserve. Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP is here to explain how child custody laws operate in Arkansas.

Arkansas Child Custody Laws

Child custody is an aspect of family law that often becomes an issue when two parents decide to divorce or if a couple had a child or multiple children while they were unmarried. Whether a couple is recently divorced or decided that they no longer want to be together, it is important to talk about child custody. Some parents may be able to come to an agreement regarding how long each parent could spend with their children. However, if you cannot come to an agreement with the parent of your child, it may be wise to consider taking your case to the courts.

In years past, Arkansas would tailor child custody laws in favor of a child’s mother instead of their father. In recent years, Arkansas has stepped away from this line of reasoning and has decided to consider the best interests of the child.

The best interests standard looks at various factors that are used to resolve child custody disputes. For example, if one parent typically cared for the child during a marriage, the court will likely lean towards awarding custody to that parent. Other factors that may be considered include:

  • Whether a parent will attempt to estrange the child from the other parent or promote a healthy parenting partnership
  • Whether one partner had difficulty holding down a job during the marriage
  • The character of each parent
  • The living conditions of each parent
  • Whether a parent lives with relatives or friends that could negatively impact the child
  • The amount of time each parent spends with the child and whether either parent abandoned the child in the past
  • Whether either parent has a history of abuse
  • Whether either parent has a history of criminal behavior

The court may also speak with a child to learn the wishes of the child if the child is old enough to communicate their wishes. For example, if the child wishes to spend an equal amount of time with each parent, this would be considered when making a child support order with a Fort Smith child custody lawyer. Note, however, the court does not have to act based on the specific wishes of the child. This is especially true if the best wishes of the child go against the best interests of the child. For instance, if the child requests to live with a parent that does not have the capability to care for the child, the child’s wishes may not be honored.

Types of Child Custody in Arkansas

Generally, there are two forms of child custody that are routinely awarded by Arkansas courts: joint custody and primary physical custody. Joint custody gives each parent an equal amount of time with their children and permits each parent to have the right to make important decisions for their children regarding topics like healthcare, religion, and education. Joint custody will not be forced upon two parents but will be considered if the parents wish to have joint custody.

Primary physical custody is when a child lives with one parent while the other parent is given rights of visitation. A schedule for visitation rights can vary depending on each case. For example, if the parents cannot decide on a schedule for one parent to visit the child, the court may intervene and propose a schedule.

In some cases, a parent may be awarded sole physical and legal custody. When a parent is awarded sole physical or legal custody, it is typically because the other parent is unfit to care for the child. For example, if a parent has a history of criminal behavior, this could be used to ensure that a parent does not gain custody of a child.

In Arkansas, when a child is born to a woman that is not married, the mother of the child will have legal custody of the child until the child reaches the age of 18. In some cases, the court may decide that the mother is not fit to have custody of the child. When this happens, the court may award custody to the father of the child or another close family member.

How the Relocation of a Child Works in Arkansas

When a parent that has custody of a child decides to relocate, there are several factors the court must consider to determine whether the child should be relocated as well. The court will look at the following factors when examining a parent relocation:

  • The parent’s reason for relocating
  • The noncustodial parent’s ability to see the child if they have visitation rights
  • Whether the child will have access to adequate education and healthcare institutions, the child may need
  • Whether the child has a preference regarding the location
  • How the relocation will affect the child’s connection to family

This is not an exhaustive list. If a parent is attempting to relocate a child in order to unlawfully keep them away from the other parent, this could lead to a number of legal issues that you may need a Springdale, AR family law attorney to handle. For example, if a parent decides to violate a custody order to try to relocate a child, they could be held in contempt of court. Additionally, a parent could even face severe criminal charges if their purpose for relocation is to deprive the child of time with their parent.

Child Support and Child Custody

If a parent has sole physical and legal custody of a child, they may be entitled to receive child support. Child support is a monthly payment used to pay for various needs of the child. The amount and duration of child support will depend upon a variety of factors:

  • The income level of each parent
  • Whether parents share custody of the child
  • Which parent cares for the child on a consistent basis

This is not an exhaustive list. There could be other factors that may be considered depending on the circumstances of your case.

If you were ordered to pay child support, and you believe the amount of support granted to your child’s parent is too high, you could seek to modify the amount of child support you pay. In Arkansas, a parent could file a motion to modify child support when their gross income increases or decreases by more than 20% or by more than $100 per month. When a drastic change in income occurs, this could be seen as a material alteration in the parent’s ability to pay child support. Modification of child support could also be requested when a parent’s ability to provide health insurance for the child changes.

Modification of a child support order could take several months, which could be extremely troublesome if the payor has sustained a major loss in income. Fortunately, it may be possible for a parent to request an emergency hearing for a child support modification under certain circumstances.

If a parent has been ordered to pay child support, it is vital that the parent heed the court order. When a parent ignores court-ordered child support, they could be subject to a number of criminal penalties. For example, the parent may be held in contempt of court and may be sent to jail. Under these circumstances, the parent would likely to have to pay bail or a certain portion of their child support in order to be released from jail.

Additionally, parents that continue to shirk their duties when it comes to paying child support could also have their income garnished. For instance, the court may take the child support payments directly from the parent’s wages.

Should You Hire an Arkansas Child Custody Lawyer?

If you are in the midst of a child custody dispute, you should consider working with one of our experienced Bentonville, AR child custody lawyers as soon as possible. There are various reasons to hire legal representation for your child custody case.

One reason to seek legal representation is that a skilled Arkansas child custody lawyer will be highly experienced with the local laws that apply to your case. This will help if you wish to file for a child support modification or if you are unfamiliar with other aspects of family law in Arkansas.

Another reason to work with an experienced Arkansas child custody attorney is that child custody cases are often time-consuming. It could be extremely difficult to juggle a child custody matter while trying to work a full-time job and handle other obligations for yourself and your family.

Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP, would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about how we could assist you in handling your child custody case.

Our Arkansas Attorneys Can Help You Navigate the Complex State Child Custody Laws

If you require legal assistance for your custody battle, contact an experienced Fayetteville, AR family law attorney. The Arkansas child law attorneys at Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP have a wealth of experience dealing with a wide range of family law issues, and we are prepared to use this knowledge to represent you. Our firm is dedicated to ensuring that your child is placed in the best environment where they will thrive. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case, contact Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP at (479) 717-9068. You may also use our online submission form to schedule your confidential consultation with one of our experienced Arkansas child custody attorneys.