This is the next post in my series which is meant to provide information which will assist parents in understanding Arkansas child custody laws. My previous article discussed what constitutes changed circumstances in the context of child custody. It is important to understand that there is no set definition as to what constitutes changed circumstances and how the court will rule in a matter will depend on the facts of the case. It is, therefore, crucial that you discuss your matter with a family law attorney as soon as possible. In this article I will be addressing a commonly raised matter – whether an unmarried parent can move their child out of state. If you or a loved one are in need of assistance, then contact my office today to speak with a Little Rock child custody lawyer.
An unmarried parent’s moving out of Arkansas with the child may depend on if they have primary or joint physical custody
The legal standard for an unmarried parent who wishes to move the child out of Arkansas will depend on the status of their current custody arrangement. To explain this requires a quick overview of our state’s child custody laws. First, if the parents are unmarried but paternity is established, then the mother is presumed to have legal custody of the child. Second, under the Hollandsworth decision, if a parent has primary custody, pursuant to a court order, and wishes to relocate, a relocation will be presumed to be in the child’s best interests. The opposing parent may still rebut this presumption and defeat the relocation however. Finally, under the Singletary decision, if the parents have an existing order granting joint custody then one wishing to move out of state must show changed circumstances and that the move would be in the child’s best interests. There is no presumption, in a joint custody situation, that the relocation would be in the best interests of the child.
Taking the above legal standards into account will mean the following. If the parents are unmarried and do not have an existing custody order, then a mother will generally be able to relocate with the child. A father wishing to relocate with the child would need to file a custody action. If the unmarried parents do have a custody order, and the party wishing to move has primary custody, then it will be presumed that the relocation is in the best interests of the child. If the parties have a custody order, and share the child jointly, then the requesting parent will need to show a change of circumstances and that the relocation is in the child’s best interests. It is important to remember that in situations where there is a custody order and one parent has primary custody, it is only presumed that the move should be allowed. The opposing parent will be given an opportunity to make a case that the move should not be allowed.
Arkansas parents must understand the process for moving a child out of state
If you have an existing custody order, and wish to move out of state, then you must gain approval to do so. Simply removing the child without permission will often result in the Court ordering the child returned to our state. In relocation matters, the first step is to file a Motion with the Court requesting permission to move. If your need to move is immediate, such as in situations where one is starting a job immediately, then the Court may be willing to hear the matter on an expedited basis. At an initial hearing, the Court will issue any necessary temporary orders and set a trial date. The process for requesting a relocation is complicated and you should retain an attorney as soon as possible.
Contact my office today to speak with a Little Rock child relocation lawyer. Such matters are often contested and we understand that this is a stressful time in your life. We pride ourselves on providing quality service and we are ready to assist you. We also handle matters in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff and throughout the rest of Arkansas.