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What the Child’s Best Interest Standard Means in Custody Cases in Arkansas

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Arkansas Best Interest of the Child

Have you ever wondered how courts decide who a child should live with when their parents get a divorce or other custody dispute? It’s a really important question, and the answer isn’t as simple as flipping a coin or picking names out of a hat. In fact, it’s all about what’s called the “best interest of the child” standard. Today, we’re going to look at how this works in the state of Arkansas.

Keep reading to learn about the specific factors that judges take into consideration to make sure the decisions they make are best for the child involved. It’s a complicated process, but it’s all aimed at ensuring the child’s happiness, safety, and overall well-being.

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What is Best Interest of the Child?

The “best interest of the child” standard in Arkansas, like in most states, is the guiding principle that courts use when they’re making decisions about things like custody, visitation, and other matters involving children during a divorce or separation of parents.

Imagine it like this: when a judge is making custody decisions that will affect a child, they must act like a kind of “super parent”. They’re not just looking at what the parents want or what’s convenient. They have to think about what’s best for the interests of the child in question, kind of like how your own parents or guardians might try to do what’s best for you, even if it’s not exactly what you want at the time.

What Factors are Considered in Child Custody Cases?

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There are lots of factors that might be considered in this “best interest” standard. Some examples could be:

Child’s Age

Young children generally need more hands-on care. Courts look at the bond between child and parent when evaluating child custody options. In addition, when children are young, judges frequently defer to the parent who has been the primary caregiver in the child’s life. Some courts also will consider the child’s wishes, depending on common factors and their age.

The child’s need for a stable home environment.

Consistency. Courts generally prefer to keep kids’ routines consistent. This includes living arrangements, school or child care routines, and access to extended family and other members of. Family court judges prefer not to make custody arrangements that disrupt a child’s routine when possible.

Impact of changing the existing routine. When considering a change, the courts also try to determine how that change would affect the best interests of the child. Generally, judges try to limit changes that would have a negative impact.

Each parent’s ability to care for the child

Evidence of parenting ability. Courts look for evidence that the parent requesting custody is genuinely able to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs, including food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education, emotional support, and parental guidance. Courts also consider factors related the parents’ physical and mental health.


This factor is always top of mind in family court, and judges will readily deny custody in cases where they believe the child’s safety best interests would be compromised.

It’s not a simple checklist. Instead, the judge has to consider all these things and more to make a decision that will be best for the child’s mental and physical health and overall well-being. It can be a tough job, because what’s “best” isn’t always clear. But the aim is always to prioritize the child’s health, safety, and happiness.

What Evidence to Show the Court

Here are some things you might need to show:

Ability to care for the child

You need to show that you can provide for the child’s needs. This can include having a stable job to afford food, clothing, and other necessities, a family home as a safe place to live, and the ability to get the child to school, doctor appointments, and other important places.

Physical and mental health

Your own physical health matters too. If you’re in good health, you’ll be more capable of taking care of a child. If you’ve had any health issues, you’ll want to show that you’ve been managing them properly.

Willingness to cooperate with the other parent

Courts usually prefer situations where both parents are involved in the child’s life. Showing that you’re willing to work with the other parent for the child’s benefit can be very helpful. This could be evidence of your communication with the parent’s relationship with the other parent, your flexibility in making plans, and your efforts to include the other parent in the child’s life.

Child’s wishes

If the child is old enough, their opinion might be considered. They won’t get to make the final decision, but the court may take their wishes and interests into account, especially if they have a strong preference for one parent and can explain their reasons.

Parent Child Relationship

If you have a strong, positive relationship with the child, this is something to highlight. You might provide evidence of activities you’ve done together, letters or messages between close and loving relationship between you, or even have people who know you both well testify about your relationship.

Keep track of your parenting time

Parenting time, also known as visitation, is the amount of time you spend with your child. Keeping track of this time is important, especially if you’re in a situation where you’re sharing custody with another parent.

Imagine you’re given an assignment in school to read a book and you need to report how much time you spent reading each week. You’d probably write down the start and end time each time you read, right? Keeping track of your parenting time is a bit like that.

Here’s how you can do it:

Keep a diary or a calendar

Every time you spend with your child, write it down. Include the date, the time you spent together, and what you did. This could be as simple as picking them up from school, helping with homework, or spending the weekend together.

Make notes of special events

If you took your child to a special event like a birthday party, a school function, or a family outing, be sure to record that too in depth too. This shows you’re involved in important parts of your child’s life.

Record missed visits

If the other parent missed their scheduled visitation, write that down too. But remember, it’s not about blaming or making the other person look bad, it’s about having accurate records.

Use technology

There are lots of apps out there that can help you keep track of parenting time. These can be useful because they’re easy to update and can even remind you to record your time.

Remember, the goal isn’t to ‘win’ custody arrangement by spending more time with your child than the other parent. Instead, it’s about showing that you’re a responsible, involved parent who’s making the effort to be part of their child’s life. Just like doing your homework on time shows your teacher that you’re responsible, keeping track of your parenting time shows the court that you’re committed to your child’s best interests.

Remember, it’s about what’s best for the child. You want to show the court that you’re thinking about the child’s needs and feelings, not just your own. If you can do that, you’ll be heading in the right direction.

When You May Need a Character Letter

Sometimes, when parents are involved in a custody dispute, or when the court is trying to decide what’s best for a child, they might ask for a character letter.

A character letter in a child custody case often works in a similar way. It’s a letter written by someone who knows you and your child well, who can vouch for your good qualities as a parent. It might be a teacher, a coach, a family friend, a neighbor, or even a relative. The person writing the letter should be someone who has seen you interact with your child and can speak about your relationship.

Here’s an example of when you might need a character letter:

During a custody dispute

If you’re in a legal battle with the other parent about who gets to spend more time with the child, a character letter can help show the judge that you’re a good parent.

When changing a the child custody, agreement

Let’s say you have a custody agreement, but you want to change it because you think it would be better for your child. A character letter could help you make your case.

In case of allegations

If someone makes a negative claim about you, writing a character letter can help to show your positive qualities, interests and actions.

It’s important to remember that a character letter is just one piece of the puzzle. The judge will look at a lot of other things too when deciding what’s in the best interest of the child. But a strong letter from someone who knows you well could definitely help to show the judge that you’re a good and caring parent.

Also, always remember it is best that the person come to court and testify on your behalf. The testimony will be more powerful and much better for your case than the letter. 

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Getting Legal Help With a Custody in Arkansas

In conclusion, dealing with a custody battle can be really tough. It often involves making hard decisions about your child’s future. But remember, you’re not in this alone. Our online custody service is here to help, with resources like video guides and necessary forms for custody agreements.

These online tools can be really helpful. They can help you understand what’s involved in a custody dispute and provide the forms you need to get started. This could save you both time and money.

So, while an online course is a great place to begin, don’t hesitate to seek additional help if you need it. In the end, the goal is to make your custody process as straightforward and fair as possible for everyone involved, especially your child. You’re not alone, and there’s help available to guide you through this difficult journey.


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