The law in Arkansas already favored joint custody agreements. However, a recent change has amended how judges must make decisions about joint custody arrangements in the state.
How does the new law work and how does that affect divorced parents?
Changes to the joint custody law
Previously, when parents filed for divorce, the law compelled judges to award joint custody in most cases. However, the new law requires courts to award joint custody unless at least one parent can prove that a joint custody agreement is not appropriate.
Effects of the new law
Advocates for the new law claim that though the previous law encouraged joint custody agreements, in many smaller counties judges have a bias in favor of awarding sole custody to the mother with fathers receiving only visitation rights even in cases where the father was a very active parent during the marriage. The new law requires judges to award joint custody unless there is a reason not to.
The change decreases the discretion judges have to decide custody cases; however, if a parent proves that the other parent has issues with abuse, mental illness, addiction or other matters that could negatively impact the child, the judge can still award a different custody arrangement.
The new law makes it more difficult for either parent to seek sole custody of a child, even in cases where joint custody may not be in the best interests of the child. However, it should also make custody decisions more consistent across the state and remove any gender-based biases from the decision-making process of the judge.