Parents engaged in a child custody proceeding, such as those going through divorce, may have heard the phrase “best interests of the child.” Many, if not most, parents would agree that their children come first. But what does this phrase mean in Arkansas law? And how do judges apply it in child custody matters?

Most U.S. states have established that judges must consider the best interests of the child when determining how to divide child custody. Thus, the judge must demonstrate that the custody order provides the children with the best chance to grow up in a healthy, supportive environment, so that they can become as well-adjusted adults as possible.

As readers may suspect, determining what is in a child’s best interests is more than a stab in the dark for judges. They must consider a variety of factors. State statutes often provide guidance. For example, many states specify that the judge must consider:

  • The relationship between the child, their parents, and other relatives and caregivers
  • The ability of the parents to provide basics like a safe home, food, clothing and medical care
  • The particular physical and mental needs of the child
  • The physical and mental health of the parents.

Arkansas law does not provide specific factors, but says that the best interests of the child “must be paramount and shall have precedence” at child custody court proceedings.

It is one of the duties of a family law attorney to help their client convince the court that their child custody aims are best for the child.