Going through a divorce can be emotionally challenging, especially when children are involved. When getting divorced, parents should try to work together to make decisions regarding their child’s future, because both parents will often continue to be involved in the child’s upbringing, depending on the child custody and visitation arrangement.
Joint custody of a child is rarely awarded in Arkansas. In a joint custody agreement presented by the parents, the child usually shares time living with each parent separately. In the absence of a specific joint custody agreement, however, joint custody is unlikely to be awarded by a judge.
If the parents cannot agree on joint custody, a judge will make a child custody determination. In Arkansas, neither parent is preferred to have custody because of his or her gender. Instead, a judge makes a child custody decision according to the welfare and best interests of the child. If a child is old enough, a judge may consider the child’s preference, in addition to several other factors, which include:
- The parent’s willingness to provide continued contact with the other parent
- The parent’s ability to provide love, affection and guidance to the child
- The parent’s financial resources and ability to provide for the child’s basic needs
- The existence of any domestic abuse, drug use or criminal records
- Whether the child has any siblings
Parents may be able to go through mediation in a child custody case if it is anticipated that it might help the parents reach a settlement, but it depends on the judge and the county the case is filed in. Judges typically have a standard visitation schedule for noncustodial parents, and ordinarily a judge will order a standard visitation schedule that includes holiday and summer visitation schedules.
A parent’s or child’s circumstances may change as the child grows up, and sometimes it is appropriate to modify a child custody decree. For example, seeking modification of a child custody order is especially important when a parent wishes to move out of state. There can be severe consequences for failing to follow a child custody decree, so it is important to make sure that all procedures are followed properly.
If you have a child and are getting divorced, or if your circumstances have changed significantly and you would like to modify an existing child custody decree, contact a family law attorney with experience in child custody cases for help.