Arkansas has the fourth-highest divorce rate in the country. The rate in 2015 was 25.3 divorces per 100 married women. Many of these divorcing children have had children together. Therefore, child custody is an ongoing issue landing before family court judges across the state.
If you are in the process of getting a divorce, you’ll want to get familiar with the state's child custody laws. Take a look at some of the child custody laws that may affect you as a single or soon-to-be-single parent who lives in Arkansas.
The Judge Won’t Assume That the Mother Is Best
Some states have laws that make it easier for a mother to be granted custody of a child, but Arkansas is not one of those states. When you go before a family law judge in Arkansas to determine custody, the judge will not already be leaning in either the mother or father's direction. Instead, the judge will decide what is in the best interest of the child or children.
One thing that will often come up is who the primary caregiver of the child was during the relationship, and in a lot of cases, that person is the mother. A judge will most likely not take a child out of the custodial care of the parent who has typically been the primary care provider because this would be disrupting to the child.
Courts Will Consider the Child's Preferences
If your child is old enough to speak on their own behalf, the judge will take their desires about which parent they prefer to live with into consideration. However, the judge's decision about custody will likely not be based solely on the child's wants in the situation. The judge will also look at other factors, such as:
- Who provides the most stable home environment for the child
- Who has been the primary caregiver of the child until now
- Who seems to have the best character of the two parents
The child's wishes will have more bearing on the judge's decision if the child is older. For example, a teen may be able to explain more about why they would prefer to stay with a certain parent, whereas an elementary-age child may not be able to offer a persuasive explanation.
Judges Can Require Home Evaluations Before Custodial Determination
If two parents cannot come to a mutual decision about who should have custody and to what degree, the judge will take several measures to make sure that the child ends up in the right arrangement. One way the family court judge may do this is by requiring home evaluations by a licensed social or legal worker in the district. During these home evaluations, the professional will look at:
- How the child behaves in a home environment with each individual parent
- What the living conditions are at both home environments, such as cleanliness or the condition of the home
- If the child has proper access to what they need in the home environment, such as clothing and food
Home evaluations can be intimidating, but they are an easy way for the judge to get an in-person look at which environment will be most nurturing for the child. Once both parents’ homes have been evaluated, the judge will use the information to make the best decision.
Getting familiar with the child custody laws in the state will help prepare you as a parent to go to court to determine custody. If you need help with your child custody case, reach out to us at The Madden Law Firm Attorneys At Law. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and give you the assistance you need.