Arkansas Divorce Guide

Child Custody

Child custody in this state gets determined based on the best interests of the child. It is the policy of this state to not favor one gender over the other, although in practice, mothers receive primary custody in three-quarters of all disputed cases. Dads take heart. It used to be much much higher.

State law and Family Court extends to you the right and obligation to submit a Parenting Plan with your spouse during your divorce. If you fail to reach agreement with your spouse, the court will get a plan out from a dusty drawer somewhere and force it on you…and you may not like it. The court has the latitude to order joint custody, sole legal custody or most any type of custody it deems appropriate. Without your own agreement, you could be painted in a bad light and wind up hosed.

One or both parents are entitled to custody, unless abuse directs the court otherwise. If both parents are deceased, the court will give custody to another person or an agency such as DHS. Grandparents can file for custody or be heard in a custody hearing if they are the primary caregiver and financial supporter and the court finds it is in the child’s best interest.

Custody is the physical care and supervision of a minor child (under age 18), and has 2 components:

Physical Custody – describes with whom and where the child lives

Legal Custody – describes who has the right and obligation to make major decisions for the child (education, healthcare, religion)

You will get ONE shot at winning custody – Learn How Here


In deciding custody, the court may order:

Sole Legal Custody – One parent has the right and Custody of childrenobligation for all of the major decisions concerning or affecting the child’s life.

Joint Legal Custody – the parents share decision-making, although not necessarily equally. Courts can permit one parent sole discretion on some issues but equally share the remainder of issues. Generally requires cooperation between the parents and an absence of abuse.

Sole Physical Custody – where and with whom the child lives on a day-to-day basis.

Joint Physical Custody – substantial contact with each parent although actual physical custody isn’t necessarily equal. Generally a child spends blocks of time in each home, with that parent having the rights and obligations of raising the child. Approved by the court with evidence that shows the parents are able to set aside differences for the best interests of the child and an absence of abuse.

Joint Custody – when parents have both joint physical and joint legal custody.

Save yourself the hassle by downloading divorce forms here


How the court decides custody

Based on best interests of the child. If you are filing you should be prepared to show how the custody arrangement you propose is in the child’s best interest. That effort will include as much information as possible about you, the child and the child’s other parent. If abuse is claimed, there must be evidence provided. The court will examine the evidence and rule on terms of custody for that parent, if any.

File for custody in the child’s home state. The home state is the state where the child most recently lived for 6 months or more. If a child is under 6 months of age, the home state is where the child was born. A parent can file for custody in the state where the child lived last if it has been less than 6 months since the child was removed. Exceptions to the home state rule can be when a parent files for custody in a state where the child and a parent have significant connections.

See our discussion on Enforcement as it pertains to custody in the tab above.

In general, the parent that has provided the bulk of caring for the children of the marriage will likely be the custodial parent (with whom the kids spend the majority of the time). Exceptions to this are when that parent can be shown to be unfit, or the kids are old enough to choose where they wish to live (age 13-14 is usually the minimum age where they have their preferences considered).

Exchanging your child with your ex at your child’s school

To avoid controversies from involving public school personnel and to avoid disruptions to the educational atmosphere in our public schools, the transfer of a child between the child’s custodial parent and noncustodial parent, when both parents are present, is prohibited from taking place on the property of a public elementary or secondary school on normal school days during normal hours of school operations.

Noncustodial parent’s right to the child’s scholastic records

As long as the parent has been granted child visitation, that parent is entitled to and will receive a copy of the child’s scholastic records upon request made to the school district or college.

Civil War: A Dad’s Guide to Custody. It is FREE, is written for Dads, is somewhat biased toward Dads, but everyone should gain perspective by reading it. We think it is a must read for Moms too.

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