Under Arkansas law, courts are tasked with awarding custody in a manner that ensures a child has regular contact with both parents — provided such an arrangement is in the best interests of the child. To that end, a judge may consider awarding what is known as joint custody.
For those unfamiliar with this term, joint custody is defined as the “approximate and reasonable equal division of time with the child by both parents” as agreed upon by the parents or ordered by the court. While joint custody doesn’t automatically mean that a child will divide their time 50-50 between their parents, it does mean they will spend considerable blocks of time with each parent (i.e., more than just visitation rights).
All of this naturally begs the question as to how exactly Arkansas courts will determine what’s in the best interests of a child.
For starters, it’s important to understand that neither parent is favored in making this determination, meaning a woman isn’t given preferential treatment simply because she is the mother. In other words, both parents are treated equally in the eyes of the law.
While a complete dissection of the state’s best interests standard is beyond the scope of a single blog post, here are a few of the many factors a judge may consider in this examination:
- The home environment of each parent (a home study may be ordered)
- The employment status of each parent
- The demonstration of caring, affection and guidance by each parent
- The ability of each parent to provide for the basic necessities for the child, including food, clothing, medical care, shelter
- The history, if any, of criminal activity, substance abuse or domestic abuse
As you can see, this is an incredibly complex matter. As such, those with question or concerns relating to the child custody process should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can provide answers and fight to protect their rights.