In Arkansas, when a court is deciding custody and visitation of a child, they look at the “child’s best interest” standard. This is a standard made up of many factors. Those factors can vary in the way the court weighs them and how many factors there are, both positively and negatively. To help you better understand the test for a child’s best interest, we will run through some of the factors and examples.
Some of the Factors:
The child’s environment:
A judge has the ability to order home studies at the home of each party requesting custody or visitation. The court will be looking at the overall condition of the home. The court will want to know if the home is clean, has appropriate HVAC systems, hot water, appropriate furniture for the children and other basics.
The character of the parents:
In Arkansas, a judge will look at what kind of person the parent who is requesting custody is. Things such as the parent’s reputation in the community and among their peers. The judge may look at the persons criminal record, or if the person has issues with drugs or alcohol.
Promoting Continued Contact:
A judge will want to know which parent is the most likely to foster a continued relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.
Judges want to know if the parent who is going to be taking care of the child the majority of the time has enough income to provide the necessities needed for the child. For example, can the parent provide the proper shelter, clothing, nutrition, insurance and other essentials required for raising a child.
Keeping siblings together:
In most cases, an Arkansas judge will try to keep all the children together in the same home. It is normally in the child’s best interest to remain in close contact with their siblings. This can include half-brothers and half-sisters and in some instances, judges will even consider the relationship between the children and their soon to be step siblings.
The Child’s Preference:
Once a child reaches a certain age, judges will take into consideration the wishes of the child about which parent the child wants to live with primarily. When evaluating the child’s preference, every child is different. The judge will take into account the maturity level of the child, along with other factors in giving the proper weight to what the child wants.
There are many factors an Arkansas judge will look to when determining what is in the child’s best interest when making a determination about custody and visitation. We have covered just a few, and every situation is unique. If you have questions about your current custody arraignment, give us a call and we will be happy to help evaluate your situation.