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Know the Laws: Arkansas

UPDATED September 15, 2017

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Please consider getting help from an organization in your area before proceeding with court action. Go to AR Where to Find Help to find organizations and legal services in your area.

General information and definitions

back to topWhat options are there for legal custody?

When a parent has sole legal custody, one parent has the right and responsibility to make all of the major decisions affecting the child’s life.

When parents have joint legal custody, the parents share the decision-making. The decision-making isn’t always shared equally - a judge can give one parent power to make certain decisions by herself while both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.

Joint legal custody works best when both parents are able to put aside their differences and plan together for the welfare of the child. It is often very difficult to share these rights and responsibilities when one parent has abused the other.

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back to topWhat options are there for physical custody?

Sole physical custody is when the child lives with only one parent on a day-to-day basis.

Joint physical custody is when there is an approximate and reasonable equal division of time with the child by both parents - this can either be agreed to by the parents or ordered by the judge.*  It does not necessarily mean the child spends equal amounts of time with each parent. The child spends blocks of time with each of the parents, who share the right and responsibility to raise the child in their home. Each parent has more than simple visitation privileges.

Like joint legal custody, joint physical custody works best when both parents are able to put aside their differences and plan together for the welfare of the child. It is often very difficult when one parent has abused the other.

* A.C.A. § 9-13-101(a)(5)

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back to topWhat is joint custody?

Joint custody is when parents have both joint physical custody and joint legal custody.  In an action for divorce, an award of joint custody is favored in Arkansas.*  If, at any time, the judge determines that one parent has a pattern of intentionally creating conflict in an attempt to disrupt a current or pending joint-custody arrangement, the judge can consider such behavior to be a material change of circumstances and can change a joint custody order to an order of primary custody to the nondisruptive parent.**

* A.C.A. §§ 9-13-101(a)(1)(A)(iii)
** A.C.A. §§ 9-13-101(b)(1)(A)(iii)

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WomensLaw.org would like to thank Ginger Kimes at the State of Arkansas Office of the Prosecutor Coordinator for her help in putting together this material.

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