Arkansas Child Custody Laws

Get to Know Arkansas Child Custody Laws Before You Head to Family Court

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The state of Arkansas uses several factors to determine child custody. First and foremost, the court makes its determination based on the best interests of the child. Find out what this means, how it could impact your case, and what else you need to know about Arkansas child custody:

Arkansas Child Custody Laws & the Best Interests of the Child

You can expect the court to put your child's needs ahead of anyone else's, including your and your ex's.

This is what is known as 'the best interests of the child' standard. In essence, the court looks at all aspects of the case while asking What is best for the child in the long run? When possible, the state of Arkansas makes every effort to ensure that both parents are able to maintain an ongoing relationship with the child. Toward this goal, the court examines a number of factors, including:  

  • Each parent's willingness to work with one another to do what is best for the child
  • Which parent is more likely to encourage the child's relationship with the other parent
  • The family's current custody arrangement
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • Whether either parent is a registered sex offender
  • The child's preference, if the child is of a sufficient age and maturity to make an adequate decision.

Domestic Violence and Child Custody in Arkansas

If a parent has been accused of domestic violence, the state of Arkansas will usually presume that it is not in the best interests of the child for that parent to be awarded child custody.

In some cases, though, the court will award generous visitation, either supervised or unsupervised. In addition, the court may require the parent to participate in anger management or parenting classes as a condition for allowing access to the child.

Drug Testing and Child Custody in Arkansas

In a child custody or visitation case in Arkansas, the court is also permitted to require either party to submit to regular drug testing.

When this happens, the parent is often required to pay for the testing himself or herself.

Unmarried Parents and Child Custody in Arkansas

Arkansas child custody laws also include some stipulations that apply specifically to unmarried parents. In cases where the parents were never married, the state of Arkansas generally assigns legal custody to the mother until the child reaches the age of 18, unless an Arkansas court gives another person (such as a grandparent) custody of the child.

However, Arkansas courts are not opposed to granting child custody to the father, either. So don't give up hope if you're a single dad and you were never married to your child's mother. According to Arkansas child custody laws, the state will award child custody to a biological father if he can prove:

  • That he's an appropriate, fit parent
  • That he has taken responsibility for the child up to this point by providing appropriate care, including financial support
  • That it's in the child's best interests to award custody to the father

Note that in cases where the mother is granted custody, the father is usually granted generous visitation. 

Custody Modification in Arkansas

Remember, too, that you can ask the court to reconsider your family's child custody arrangement.

This is known as asking for a custody modification, and either parent can file the request. However, the parent requesting the change must prove to the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances which necessitates a revised custody arrangement. If the court does decide to review your case, they will again look to put your child's best interests ahead of your wishes or your ex's preferences. 

For more information about Arkansas child custody laws, refer to the Arkansas Family Code or speak with a qualified attorney in your area.

Edited by Jennifer Wolf.