A breakdown of parents’ custody rights

Parents should know their rights when it comes to deciding who gets custody over a child.

When the custody of a child becomes a legal issue, many parents in Little Rock may be uncertain of what rights they actually have. This usually happens in the case of a divorce, where the mother and father will seek some form of agreement. Questions of child custody may also arise when a couple separates, even if they have not been married. Depending on each situation, the laws that apply may differ.

What are the different types of custody-arrangements?

There are a few different ways that determination of custody may play out. Arkansas courts generally award one of the following types of custody:

  • If parental duties are able to be performed by both parents, and the child will live equally with both parents, that arrangement is "true joint" custody. In fact, the courts are supposed to "favor" joint custody over other custody arrangements. This form of custody allows parents to share responsibilities in raising the child, with each parent's decisions bearing equal weight.
  • When one parent receives complete custody of a child, it is called "sole" or "full" custody. In this arrangement, the custodial parent makes the final decisions related to the children.
  • "Joint legal custody" is a common arrangement, which means the parents are supposed to both have input into the issues related to the children, but one parent is the "primary" parent, and if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the primary parent makes the final decision.
  • If certain rare circumstances exist, it is also possible for a third party, for example, a grandparent or a step-parent, to seek custody of a child. This form of custody can also be awarded by a court.

Parents are more likely to be awarded custody if they are in good mental and physical health. Courts also take into consideration the relationship each parent has with the child. The child's wishes and the parent's wishes are also taken into consideration. Whatever decision is made by the court, it is meant to be in the best interests of the child in question.

What are rights of visitation?

Visitation is also decided with the focus on what is best for the child. For example, if the child would be negatively affected by a parent's mental illness, then the court could decide to restrict visitation rights with that parent. The same is true in cases involving emotional or physical abuse. Visitation is granted in all custody situations except in the case of true joint custody, where the child is actually living with both parents equally.

Do dads and moms get equal rights?

Theoretically, and even according to the specific language in the law, custody awards are supposed to be made without regard to gender. Equal treatment of moms and dads is ever increasing as a reality in Arkansas courts, but some courts have been slower to adopt the philosophy that men are often just as capable of parenting as are women.

It can be tricky to navigate the legal system when child custody comes into question. Therefore, people may want to sit down with an experienced family law attorney in Arkansas to make sure they fully understand their rights.