Family Law FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Arkansas family law.

What is considered a family law case?

A family law case involves anything that has to do with the family: divorce, custody, visitation, paternity, in some cases guardianship, adoption, etc.

Why should I hire an attorney for my family law case?

You should hire an attorney in order to avoid many of the potentially emotionally and financially costly pitfalls of the litigation process, including courtroom missteps. In divorce cases, you need an attorney to help protect you and your interests because the attorneys for the other party will not. Don’t miss out on what you would have otherwise been entitled.

How do I file for custody in Arkansas?

First of all, you need to get an experienced child custody attorney to help. The process can be difficult, and the law can be complex. If you are getting a divorce, you will file in the county in which you reside with the child.

If you are unmarried to the other parent but seeking custody, then you must file it in the circuit court in the county where the child resides. Custody is usually based on a child’s residency, and a child has to have been living in the county for six months.

What is the difference between sole custody and joint custody?

Sole custody, or full custody, generally means full physical and legal custody of the child. Full custody gives one parent the right to make all of the decisions and to have physical custody of the child the majority of the time.

Physical custody means having the child physically within your control. Legal custody means that you have the right to have input and make decisions as it relates to the minor child.

Joint custody is when both parents can have an input; they both have a say in where the child goes to the doctor, school, extracurriculars, etc. True joint custody is a 50/50 time split, plus each parent gets a say in all of the important matters in the child’s life.

How is child custody decided?

The standard for deciding child custody is that the court calls “the best interest of the child” which includes factors such as who can provide the most stable environment for the child.

Another key factor that the court looks at is if a parent is going to encourage visitation and communication with the other parent, or if they are intentionally interfering with the other parent’s rights to communication and visitation. This can affect a custody decision. The court favors joint custody whenever possible, unless extenuating circumstances exist.

What is an attorney ad litem?

An attorney ad litem is a third-party, neutral attorney who represents a child in a custody case. They will talk with everyone in the child’s life, and they will make a recommendation to the court based on what they think is in the best interest of the child.

How is child support determined?

Child support is a mathematical calculation that’s based on the net income. This is not the net income that would appear on a paycheck, but the gross income minus federal and state income taxes; Social Security income (FICA), Medicare; railroad retirement; medical insurance paid for the minor child(ren); and any presently paid child support for other dependent by court order.

See Administrative Order No. 10

Do I have to go to court for a child support case?

No, you do not have to go to court. A common problem we see is when one parent doesn’t want to make the other parent pay child support. Arkansas caselaw does not allow non-payment of child support because it’s not about the parent; it’s about the child. A parent cannot waive support for a child.

While you can settle child support out of court, you may need to explain any deviation from the child support chart, and it still must be approved by the court.

What are the birth parents’ rights during the adoption process?

When a child is adopted, the birth parent must consent to said adoption. Exception to consent occurs when there has been abuse, neglect, abandonment, no material and substantial support for at least one year, or no material or substantial contact for at least one year.

Birth parents have the right to withdraw their consent to adoption within 10 days of it being filed. After that, their rights are extinguished.

Will the child have to appear in court in a family law case?

The court will not allow a child under the age of 14 to testify because it can be a scarring experience. Instead, a guardian ad litem. However, 16- and 17-year-old children may be allowed to testify, depending on the court.