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Legal Information: Arkansas

Arkansas Parental Kidnapping

Parental Kidnapping

This page includes information that is specific to this state, about parental kidnapping, also called custodial interference. There is also a page for general information that you may find helpful. Custody and kidnapping are particularly complicated and it is important to try to find an experienced lawyer to help you with your case.

Temporary emergency custody

If I think that the other parent may abduct my child, is there anything I can do?

Sometimes. This is a concern many abuse victims express because abusers often threaten to kidnap the children to keep the victim in the relationship or as a way of using power and control in the relationship. 

It is best to consult a lawyer to determine what can be done based on the specific facts in your situation. When considering the likelihood that the abuser may kidnap the child, the lawyer will likely want to know:

  • where the abuser’s family lives,
  • whether s/he has ever lived out of state,
  • whether his/her work requires him/her to travel out of state, and
  • whether the abuser has actually followed through on threats in the past.

If you believe that the abuser may take the child out of the country, see How can I keep the other parent from taking my children out of the country?

According to the law, an abuser cannot “abduct” a child if you are married and there is no custody order. Both parents have equal custody rights until a court order awards custody to one of the parents. However, if your spouse has taken the child from you and is denying you contact, there are still steps you can take to try to get the child back such as filing for custody in court and asking for immediate temporary custody if the child is in danger.  We strongly suggest that you consult a lawyer for advice if this is the situation you are in.  You can find free and paid lawyers on our AR Finding a Lawyer page.

Note: If the parents have never been married and there is no custody order, the mother of the child has legal custody by law.1 

1 A.C.A. § 9-10-113(a) & (b)

Can I get temporary custody in an order of protection?

If you get an order of protection against the other parent, it may include temporary custody and/or temporary visitation. Be sure to tell the judge that you want custody during your order of protection hearing so that the judge can consider your request.

When your order of protection expires, temporary custody expires with it. You can ask a judge to extend your temporary custody order if it’s necessary.

However, if you have a custody case open somewhere else when you apply for an order of protection, the judge hearing your case will likely not be able to deal with the custody issue.

For more information, see Domestic Violence Orders of Protection.

Can I get temporary emergency custody?

Perhaps. Judges will usually only grant temporary emergency custody in extreme situations. You will need to prove to the judge that your children are in danger in order to get an emergency custody order.  A judge may give you temporary custody if s/he feels that there is immediate and present danger of abuse and it is necessary to protect you or your children.

Whether you will get temporary emergency custody often depends on the judge. Some judges do not require much proof that your children are in danger, while others almost never grant temporary emergency custody. It is almost always better to have a lawyer helping you file for temporary emergency custody. To find a lawyer in your area please visit the AR Finding a Lawyer page.

Taking the kids out of state

If there is a custody order in place, can I take my kids out of the state?

It depends on what your order says. If your order specifically says you can leave the state with your children, you can do so. Otherwise, you may need to get the other parent’s permission or a judge to change your order before leaving the state with your kids.

How can I keep the other parent from taking my children out of the country?

If you believe the other parent may take your children out of the country and refuse to return, you can ask a judge to help prevent the abduction. If a judge believes the other parent may commit international child abduction, s/he may:

  • Give custody to the parent who does not present a risk of international abduction,
  • Change a custody order to reduce the risk,
  • Order that supervision with the potential kidnapper be supervised,
  • Order the potential kidnapper to not pick up the child from school or come near the child, except for during allowed visitation times,
  • Order the potential kidnapper to not take the child out of the US, to surrender the child’s passport, and to not get a new passport or travel visa for the child,
  • Order that the Department of State be notified of travel restrictions on the child,
  • Order that the potential kidnapper pay a bond of enough money to cover getting the child back, in case kidnapping takes place,
  • Give law enforcement officers the authority to prevent abduction, and/or
  • Make changes to the custody order so that it is more easily enforced, such as making it extremely specific and clear.

In deciding whether or not the other parent is at risk for committing international child abduction, a judge will look at:

  • Whether the parent has committed in the past, threatened to commit, or tried to commit international child abduction,
  • Whether the parent doesn’t have a strong financial reason to say in the US,
  • Whether it looks like the parent is taking steps (like quitting their job or getting travel arrangements in order) to leave the country,
  • Whether the parent has a history of domestic violence, child abuse, marital instability, or not cooperating with the other parent,
  • Whether the parent has a criminal history or a history of violating court orders,
  • Whether the parent has connections outside the US and/or lacks significant connections in the US, and
  • Other relevant factors.1

See also How can I keep the other parent from taking my children out of the country? in our General Parental Kidnapping section for more information about the federal government’s program regarding passport alerts.

1 A.C.A. § 9-13-406