In the last legislative session, a Maumelle representative proposed a major change to divorce and child custody laws in Arkansas. While the proposal ultimately failed before becoming law, it may gain more momentum in the next session or subsequent ones.
Representative Mark Lowery wanted to require custodial parents to petition the court for approval to move more than 75 miles. The proposal would have allowed non-custodial parents to object to the move.
The rights of non-custodial parents
Even under ideal circumstances, parenting in a post-divorce world can be challenging. Still, when a custodial parent moves far away with the kids, the non-custodial one may not be able to exercise his or her parental rights. Even worse, the non-custodial parent may not be able to identify safety-related issues that may affect the children.
The rights of custodial parents
While the failed proposal from Rep. Lowery may protect the rights of non-custodial parents, it may also place an undue burden on single parents and victims of domestic violence. Currently, case law in Arkansas tends to favor custodial parents, mostly giving them free rein to relocate with their kids.
The future of divorce and child custody
It is not uncommon for legislators to rework their proposals to address the concerns of other lawmakers. If a modified version of Rep. Lowery’s bill becomes law, parents may have to address potential moves during divorce proceedings. Courts may also play a more active role in deciding where custodial parents may live with their children.
For now, Arkansas divorce and custody laws remain unchanged. Ultimately, though, if you are a custodial parent who is thinking about relocating, you may have additional hurdles to overcome in the future.