Family Law

Our Hot Springs Attorney works with clients to determine whether the situation calls for a compassionate amicable resolution or an aggressive approach in matters such as divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support (maintenance), division of marital property and debt, post divorce modifications, post divorce enforcement (contempt) proceedings, paternity, adoption, and other related issues. We also help our clients make informed decisions about what they want to happen in the resolution of family law disputes.

Who Gets Child Custody in Arkansas?

  • Like most states, Arkansas child custody laws and child custody determinations are determined in accordance with the overall best interest of the child.
  • The Arkansas statutes state “In an action for divorce, the award of custody of a child of the marriage shall be made without regard to the sex of a parent but solely in accordance with the welfare and best interest of the child.
  • In determining the best interest of the child in Arkansas, the Arkansas family court may consider the preferences of the child if the child is of a sufficient age and capacity to reason, regardless of chronological age.”

Courts have broad discretion in setting visitation. Most Judges award visitation according to a standard visitation schedule. However, if the child is under the age of 5 years old, the court will often alter the award of visitation as the court seems fit. In doing so, the court will look at various circumstances of the case including: age of the child, relationship between child and non-custodian parent, best interest of the child, etc… Common visitation changes by the court include: no overnight visitation until the child is of a certain age, shorter visits, and greater number of visits to offset shorter visits. It is not uncommon for some Judges to implement a graduating scale of visitation until the noncustodial parent receives standard visitation when the child reaches a particular age.

Courts are often requested to limit visitation by the custodial parent as follows:

  • Visitation to be supervised.

This does not necessarily mean supervised by the custodial parent. Oftentimes, the parties will agree who may supervise, such as the noncustodial grandparent. Court will require a showing that the noncustodial parent is dangerous or unfit.

  • Third parties to not be present at visitation or during custody.
  • Physical condition of the parent during visitation or custody.

The parent is not to drink alcohol, take illegal drugs, or smoke cigarettes while in the presence of the minor child.

  • Physical location.

The child is not to go to a particular location or in other cases is not to leave a particular location or set of locations. The burden of proving the limitation is in the child’s best interest is on the requesting party. However, for many requests, the judge is predisposed to grant the limitation.

Frequently, obstacles to awarding standard visitation exist. For example:

  • The noncustodial parent works a schedule that does not allow for weekend visitation or night-time visitation.
  • The parents live a great distant apart so that frequent visitation is very difficult.

In these cases, the court will structure visitation as best it can as the situation allows.

The Difference Between Visitation and Support.
Visitation and support are independent orders. Failure to have visitation does not affect the non-custodial parents support obligations.

What about a breach by the non-custodial parent?
The non-custodial parent does not exercise his visitation rights.

What can be done about it?
The court cannot force visitation. The court can increase child support to cover the costs of additional day-care, food, activities, and other things. The court can also alter the amount of visitation rights so the custodial parent does not have to constantly make plans for a non-custodial parent who does not show up for visitation time and again after stating they are going to do so.

What can be done about a custodial parent who desires to relocate?
Under Arkansas law, the custodial parent has the right to relocate if there is any reason, no matter how small, to do so. However, the custodial parent is oftentimes required to obtain court approval first before doing so.

Remedies for Violating a Visitation Order:
There are several remedies available to the non-custodial parent if there is interference with the visitation schedule.

  •    An action for Contempt of Court.

Punishment for occasional or infrequent small offenses are generally inconsequential , but repeated violations of the court’s orders, after being admonished, can result in the court  ordering a change of custody.

  • Terminating or reducing alimony or support.
  • Terminate or reduce child support.

It is very unlikely that the court will reduce or terminate child support, because such action is rarely found  to be in the best interest of the child. An action change custody has a greater chance of success than one to reduce or terminate child support.

  • Change of custody.

There are criminal charges in Arkansas that may be pressed for interference with visitation.

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