Child custody decisions have come a long way in Arkansas. A lot has changed, from the tender years in the 1800s, when mothers were the preferred custodians for young children, to the present times when the playing field is almost level. Both parents now have equal legal rights in child custody determinations.
A recent change in Arkansas family law (Act 604 of the 2021 regular session) makes joint custody the default arrangement when determining a parenting arrangement, unlike before. It means that courts will approach every child custody case with the view that both parents should be involved in the child’s life regardless of gender.
What this means to your custody case
Under the new law, you will most likely share physical and legal custody with your co-parent unless the children’s interests are affected by such an arrangement. If your co-parent is against shared custody, it is up to them to provide to the court clear and convincing reasons why it is not what’s best for the children.
Some reasons a court may award sole custody include domestic violence, neglect or if your co-parent is a sex offender.
Protecting your parental rights
Shared custody means that you and your co-parent should have equal time with the children. Both parents should also be involved in making critical decisions affecting their children’s lives, such as their education, religion or medical procedures. As such, it is crucial to be aware of your parental rights and safeguard your place in the children’s lives.
For instance, you need to be aware of your legal options if circumstances have drastically changed since the court issued its orders, putting your children’s welfare at risk, or if your co-parent constantly violates court orders by preventing you from accessing the children.