Arkansas Custody and Visitation Schedules
Your child custody and visitation schedule is important to you and to your child. Here's how to set up an Arkansas visitation schedule.
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
Fortunately, Arkansas doesn't have a lot of laws that you need to know for your custody schedule, but here are some of the ones that do affect the schedule (these are found in AC 9-13):
- All custody decisions are decided based on what is in the child's best interest.
- The court does not consider the parent's gender when awarding custody.
- The court may consider the preference of the child in custody decisions of the child is old enough and has enough capacity to reason.
- When it is best for the child, each parent should have frequent and continuing contact with the child.
- Even though Arkansas doesn't have a preference for a joint custody schedule, the court can still award joint custody.
- The court can order visitation rights for siblings of a child when it will benefit the child.
- The court can order visitation rights for grandparents if it is in the best interest of the child.
Honestly, the Arkansas Code can be a difficult read. Within the Code you will find the actual laws along with commentary that shows how those laws have been applied in various custody cases. Some of these can be helpful, but it is hard to get through all of the information.
The greatest benefit of writing your own schedule is that you retain control over your child's situation. You and the other parent are the experts when it comes to making decisions for your child and are naturally the best ones to write the visitation schedule. If you do not create a custody and visitation schedule for your child, the court will make one for you.
If your child's other parent does not pose a risk or danger to your child, you two will want to work out a child visitation schedule that benefits your child by providing him/her with the optimal amount of time with both parents. When you write your own schedule, it makes a difference.
The standard visitation schedule in Arkansas varies between each judge in each district, but they share the same basic elements. It is typically provided to parents who cannot reach an agreement.
The standard suggested schedule commonly gives one parent visitation time every other weekend, with rotating holidays, with time in the summer and school breaks, and the other parent has the child the remainder of the time.
Standard schedules are widely used but may not be the best fit for your child. You will want to write a visitation schedule that reflects the needs of your child, while considering the availability of each parent. This will ensure stability and security in your child's life.
The law does not mandate any specific requirements for what to put in your custody schedule, but generally, a complete custody schedule will have the following:
- An everyday or school schedule
- A holiday or special event schedule
- A schedule for vacation time
- Provisions and guidelines for how the parents will handle the logistics of the schedule (how the parents will handle exchanges, how they will make changes to the schedule, etc.)
If you prepare a schedule with the above components and consider the other laws and the best interest of your child, you should have a good schedule for your situation. This should help you feel confident that the court will approve your schedule and that it will work for you and your child.
Some parents have found success with some of the following plans:
- Two days with one parent followed by three days with the other parent, in a repeating pattern.
- Alternating weeks with one or two overnights with the other parent in the middle.
- Three consecutive overnights for one parent, every other week, with one overnight in the middle of the week without parenting time.
- Alternating weekends, with one day in the middle of each week for the parent with less parenting time.
You may customize your schedule any way you want. After you get the basic schedule in place, you will need to make provisions for holidays and vacation time. You may include any holidays you want, as well as make conditions for three day weekends, Father's Day, Mother's Day, the child's birthday, and the parents' birthdays.
You may also want to consider the age of the child when making your initial child visitation schedule, and plan out future modifications to the schedule as the child grows. The needs of an infant, an elementary school student, and a teenager are different.
As long as you present a child visitation schedule that has your child's best interests in mind, it should be accepted by the court.
If there is a court order for custody and visitation, your child must be made available for it. Interfering or denying another person's court ordered custody or visitation time is a serious offense in the State of Arkansas.
The punishment for obstructing the other parent's visitation depends of the severity and frequency of the infraction(s), but it could include fines, jail time, and/or loss or reduction of custody. Interfering with the court order ranges from a Class-C misdemeanor to a felony (AC 5-26-502).
As the penalties for denying visitation time are steep, it is important to create a visitation schedule that is fair and mutually agreeable to both parents.
In cases where the other parent poses a risk to the safety of the child, you should make every effort to prove this to the court. Merely saying that a parent is dangerous, abusive, or neglectful is not enough. You must provide evidence to the court to substantiate your allegations.
The statements and testimony of any witnesses, copies of police reports, restraining orders, doctor's reports, photographs, and even threatening voice and text messages are all good ways to prove your point.
You may also petition the court to conduct a criminal background check on the other parent (AC 9-13-105), but there must be reasonable cause to do so.
If you suspect or have reason to believe the other parent has substance abuse issues, you may petition the court to compel that parent to submit to drug testing (AC 9-13-109).
There are certain situations, where in no uncertain terms, a parent should not be granted access to their child. This includes parents who are sex offenders (AC 9-13-101 (d)) and parents found to be abusive to their children (AC 9-13-101 (c)).
Depending on the severity of the offense and the risk of danger to the child, visitation may be limited, supervised, or even restricted.
The top fifteen cities in Arkansas (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, Bentonville, Jacksonville, Texarkana, Benton, Russellville.