Arkansas Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
You can write up your own parenting plan (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 agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
A successful parenting plan should include:
- A child visitation schedule that also includes holiday and vacation schedules.
- Details as to the transportation of the child between homes and exchange locations. (It is illegal for parents to meet on Arkansas public school grounds during normal school hours to exchange a child per AC 9-13-104).
- An outline of the expected roles of each parent pertaining to decision making and responsibilities such as education, religion, healthcare needs, extra-curricular activities, etc.
- An agreement on maintaining disciplinary consistency.
- A first right of refusal contingency.
- Travel rules, including any restrictions, such as prohibiting a parent from removing the child from the state, country, etc.
- A plan for potential dispute resolution in the future.
In addition to some of these basic elements, addressing all potential areas and expectations in the child's life and including them in the parenting plan will ensure a better, low-conflict relationship between the parents. This is always in the child's best interest.
Presenting an organized, inclusive, and justly written parenting plan to the court will demonstrate the parent's willingness to put personally feelings aside and cooperate with the other parent, which is also in the child's best interest.
Yes. The Arkansas Code contains laws that differentiate between married and unmarried parents.
In cases of unmarried parents, an unmarried mother is automatically entitled to custody of her child, from birth until the age of 18, unless the court determines otherwise.
The biological father may petition the court for custody or visitation rights, but must prove to be a fit parent and must demonstrate that he has assumed responsibilities toward the child in order to be given any custody. These responsibilities include providing financial support, as well as care giving and nurturing duties.
It must also be determined that the father having (a form of) custody is in the best interest of the child. If these factors are proven and it serves the child's best interests, the court will ensure that the child has continuing, frequent contact with both parents (AC 9-10-113.)
Unmarried mothers will need to keep the law in mind when being contested for custody.
Unmarried fathers must be aware of the law so they may properly assume all expected responsibilities prior to seeking court action.
Sometimes the mother may make it difficult or impossible for the father to have access to the child, therefore impeding the manner in which he is able to meet his parenting obligations.
If the father provides financial support and makes the attempt to parent the child, even if thwarted by the mother, it will be looked upon favorably by the court.
It is likely that the court will view the mother's lack of cooperation negatively, as long as the father is fit to parent.
It is the position of the State of Arkansas that a child benefits from regular contact with both parents. Once paternity is established and there is a court order to pay child support, the circuit court can grant visitation rights to the father (AC 9-10-114).
That is not the case at all. Although the laws regarding unmarried parents seem to favor the mother in custody disputes, (before the father has established paternity and that he is a fit parent), married parents stand on equal ground.
In cases of divorce, the gender of a parent is not considered. Neither parent, based upon their gender, is favored as to custody. The court will rule in favor of the best interests of the child (AC 9-13-101 (a)(A)[i]).
Regardless of the gender or the marital status of the parents, unless the other parent is proven to be unfit, the court will typically grant some form of custody or visitation to both parents.
Mutually agreeing upon a parenting plan will guarantee (as long as it is in the best interest of the child) that the parenting plan will be adopted by the court.
The custody arrangements may be made by either the parents or the court. It is entirely up to you.
If you and the other parent agree on the terms and conditions of your custody agreement, you can simply submit your plan to the court and the court will most likely accept it.
If you and the other parent are not able to cooperate and reach an agreement, you may want to attend mediation in an effort to resolve your disputes. If that fails, you can each submit a proposed agreement and the court will decide the custody arrangements. The court may accept one of the proposed plans or give you a different one.
The court may even consider the wishes and request of the child if the child is deemed mature enough to make that decision (AC 9-13-101(a)(A)[ii]).
At the conclusion of your case, he terms and conditions of the parenting plan will become a court order, obliging both parties to comply with the terms, and there are penalties for breaking the court order.
A person that denies or interferes with the other parent's court ordered visitation time or custody is subject to prosecution by the State of Arkansas (AC 5-26-502). The punishment ranges in severity from a Class-C Misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the nature of the offense and whether or not it is a frequent occurrence.
Penalties could include fines, possible jail time, or other court action.
You can keep track of what actually happens as opposed to what the court ordered to happen by using the Custody X Change software. The software has many other features that can assist you if you need to return to court.
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.