Arkansas courts grant child custody awards in accordance with the welfare and best interests of the child. If a child is of sufficient age and capacity, the court may consider his/her preference. Additionally, the courts base child custody on:
- The parent most capable of allowing the child to continue contacting the other parent and grandparents.
- Evidence of domestic violence patterns toward the other parent, child, or other family members.
- Evidence of sexual abuse or the presence of a registered sex offender in the home of the party seeking custody.
Grandparents’ Custody Rights
Arkansas courts grant custody to grandparents when it is in the best interests of the child. Under Arkansas statutes, grandparents are entitled to receive notice of child custody proceeds. Grandparents have the right to be heard during child custody proceedings of a child under 12 months of age if:
- The child resided with the grandparent for a minimum of six consecutive months.
- The grandparent was the primary caregiver and provided financial support for the child.
- The child resided with the grandparent for six consecutive months within one year before the custody proceeding.
If the child is 12 months or older the child will need to reside with the grandparent for a minimum of 12 consecutive months. When a grandparent meets the state’s requirements, the party seeking custody of the child must provide the circuit court with the grandparent’s contact information to ensure he/she receives proper notification.
Grandparents’ Visitation Rights
Grandparents have visitation rights and may petition an Arkansas circuit court to exercise visitation rights with grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Circuit courts may grant reasonable visitation rights to grandparents if a child’s parents’ marital relationship is no longer intact as a result of death, divorce, or legal separation or the child is illegitimate and a paternity test has confirmed the petitioner as the paternal grandparent. A child’s custodian may rebuttal a visitation request if he/she claims limiting or denying visitation with a grandparent if it is in the best interests of the child.
If the custodian rebuttals a visitation request, the paternal grandparent must provide evidence of his/her established relationship with the child. Additionally, the grandparent must provide evidence showing lack of visitation would harm the child.
Members of Armed Forces
If a child’s parents are members of the United States armed forces, Arkansas courts may modify a child custody or visitation order to increase time between a mobilized parent and child. Courts consider the following factors to determine the necessity of a modification:
- Length of the mobilized parent’s call to active duty.
- Mobilized parent’s duty station(s).
- Active parent’s opportunity to communicate with the child during the leave.
Attorney Ad Litem Program
If a court determines a child’s rights need further protection, a judge may appoint an attorney to represent the child. Circuit court judges generally appoint attorneys meeting specific standards and qualifications. However, on rare occasions, the appointed attorney does not meet the required standards and qualifications. When this happens the appointed attorney may not be appointed to other cases until he/she makes an effort to meet the court’s minimum standards and qualifications.