Child custody can be a point of contention for many divorcing couples. If you are used to seeing your child every day, it may seem unsettling to think that this routine could change, and it can be painful to think your ex-spouse might benefit from your lost time with your child. Although it can be challenging to set aside your own feelings, your child’s needs should be at the forefront of any custody decision you make.
However, sometimes parents reach opposing views on what would benefit the child most. If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement on child custody matters, a court may need to step in and award custody as it sees fit.
A child’s best interests take priority
If a court ends up deciding on the custody of your child, it will do so based on your child’s welfare and best interests. A child’s best interests usually involve maintaining a relationship with both parents, so Arkansas courts prefer to award joint child custody whenever possible.
Joint custody involves both parents sharing the child’s time and the parenting responsibilities. Joint custody does not necessarily require an equal split of a child’s time, but the split usually ends up being close to equal.
Joint custody is sometimes not appropriate
Courts generally try to award custody in such a way that the child can experience frequent and continuing contact with both parents. However, when joint custody is not in a child’s best interests, a court may award primary custody to one parent.
This may occur if evidence strongly shows a parent’s pattern of intentionally causing conflict and disrupting the current custody arrangement. This may also occur in cases involving a parent that has committed domestic violence or who is a sex offender.
Unless the child’s safety is at risk, the court may award visitation time to the parent who does not have primary custody. Visitation time could be unsupervised or supervised, depending on the unique situation.
While it may not always be possible to collaborate with your ex, you should make sure your child’s needs are always put first when child custody decisions are being made. A full understanding of how courts make custody decisions may help you better advocate on your child’s behalf.