Child custody is one of the most contested aspects of a divorce in Arkansas. Even spouses who agree on other terms of the divorce may argue when it comes to parenting time, legal responsibilities and visitation rights.
During a custody dispute, parents may wonder if their child has a say in whom to live with. Some parents want to keep their children out of the stressful divorce process while others want them to chime in on a certain side. Either way, Arkansas law has certain requirements that couples must observe during custody determinations.
Getting the child’s opinion
In Arkansas, custody and visitation laws make including the child in a custody decision mandatory if the child is old enough and has sufficient mental capacity. If the child is too young to form a reasonable opinion, or not mentally mature or capable enough, the judge will leave the child out of the decision. Children typically will not have to testify their opinions in court. Instead, a court-appointed representative will interview the child privately.
Strength of the child’s opinion in court
The law does not require a judge to grant a decision based on where the child says he or she wants to live during a divorce case. Instead, the judge will listen to arguments from both sides or their attorneys and determine custody based on what is in the child’s best interests. The judge will look at factors such as age, relationship with both parents, education, friends, relatives and the community.
No age minimum
Some states set an age at which the courts will hear a child’s opinion. Although the courts must consider a child’s opinion when of a certain mental capacity in Arkansas, no age minimum exists. Instead, the judge will make the determination based on the individual child.
The child could potentially be any age, although most commonly these scenarios involve teenagers. Regardless of the unique facts of a case, a judge will always ultimately make a custody decision based on what he or she believes is best for the child.