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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.

Who can get custody or visitation

back to topWho can get custody?

Generally, at least one of the child's parents is entitled to custody, unless there is strong evidence that both parents are unfit or unless one of the situations described in the following questions apply.

If both parents have passed away or they are unfit, the judge can give custody to another person or to an agency, such as the Department of Human Services.  What the judge will decide depends on what s/he believes is in the best interest of the child.

Grandparents may also be entitled to custody.  See I am the child’s grandparent. Can I get custody?

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back to topCan a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?

Sometimes. Custody or visitation by an abusive parent may be allowed, but only if the judge believes that you and your children can stay safe. To help keep you safe, the judge can order supervised visits or for the pick-up and drop-off of your children to happen in a protected place. The judge may also order the parent to attend counseling and not use or have alcohol and other drugs.

If the judge does not believe that you or your children are still in danger, the judge may order custody or visitation without any measures to protect you or your child. Therefore, it is important that the judge believes you when you talk about the violence. You may want to keep evidence of the violence ready, if you have it.

if you feel there is still a risk of violence, you can ask the judge:

1) for pick-up and drop-off of your children to happen in a protected place,
2) to permit someone other than you to take or pick up the children for visits, and
3) to order only email contact between the parents or messages left on an answering service.

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back to topCan a sex offender get custody or visitation?

The judge cannot award custody or unsupervised visitation to a sex offender unless the judge specifically determines that the sex offender poses no danger to the child. The judge is supposed to assume (although the other parent can try to convince the judge otherwise) that it is not in the best interest of the child to be in the care or custody of a sex offender, to have unsupervised visitation with a sex offender, to be placed in the home where a sex offender lives, or to have unsupervised visitation in a home in which a sex offender lives.*

* A.C.A. § 9-13-101(d)

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back to topIf my child was conceived from rape, can the rapist get custody or visitation?

If you have conceived a child from being raped, and the man is convicted in criminal court of raping you, all of his rights to custody, visitation, or other contact with the child are terminated immediately upon being convicted for the rape in which the child was conceived.*  However, the rapist can still be ordered to pay child support (and the child may still be able to inherit from his estate upon his death).**

Note: The biological mother of a child conceived as a result of rape may petition the court to reinstate the rapist's parental rights if she chooses.***

* A.C.A. § 9-10-121(a)
** A.C.A. § 9-10-121(c),(d)
*** A.C.A. § 9-10-121(b)

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back to topI am the child’s grandparent. Can I get custody?

It depends. You will have an opportunity to file for custody and be heard in any child custody proceeding involving your grandchild if you are the primary caregiver and financial supporter of your grandchild and it is in the child's best interest to be in your legal custody.

Even though you may have the right to file for custody, a judge may or may not give it to you. A judge will look at many factors to try to decide if giving you custody is in the child’s best interest.

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back to topI am the child’s grandparent or great-grandparent. Can I get visitation of the child?

Maybe.  We have laid out the three main requirements/ steps that you must meet before you can get visitation. 

Step 1: A grandparent or great-grandparent can only petition (ask) the court for visitation if:

  • The parents were married but are now divorced, legally separated, or one parent has died OR
  • The parents weren’t married (the child is legally known as "illegitimate"). Note: If you are the paternal grandparent, the father's paternity has to first be established in court before you can file for visitation.  If you are the maternal grandparent, paternity doesn't matter.

If you fall into one of the above categories, you have the right to file for visitation.  Now go to Steps 2 and 3 to see what you have to prove to the judge.

Step 2: You must prove that you established a significant relationship with the child by proving one of the following:
     (A) The child resided with you (with or without the current custodial parent) for at least 6 consecutive months; or
     (B) You were the caregiver to the child on a regular basis for at least 6 consecutive months; or
     (C) You had frequent or regular contact with the child for at least 12 consecutive months; or
     (D) Any other facts that establish that the loss of the relationship between you and the child is likely to harm the child.

Step 3: 
You also must prove to the judge that visitation with you is in the best interest of the child by proving all of the following:
(A) You are able to give the child love, affection, and guidance; and
(B) The loss of the relationship between you and the child is likely to harm the child; and
(C) You are willing to cooperate with the custodial parent if visitation with the child is allowed.*

Note: By law, the judge has to assume that the parent's reason for denying you visitation is in the child's best interest.**  If you can prove the factors in Steps 2 and 3, you may be able to overcome this assumption and get visitation.

This is a complicated issue and it is usually best to discuss it in detail with an attorney. To find a lawyer in your area please see our AR Finding a Lawyer page.

* A.C.A. § 9-13-103 (b)-(e)
** A.C.A. § 9-13-103 (c)(1)

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back to topI can’t see my brother or sister. Can I file for visitation?

Yes. If you’re not currently allowed to see your brother or sister (regardless of whether s/he is your full sibling), you can ask the court for visitation.*

* A.C.A. § 9-13-102

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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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