Judge on the benchThis is the next post in a series detailing the child custody laws of Arkansas. My previous post discussed the process of moving out of state with a child. In this article, I will discuss the importance of unmarried parents having a custody order in place. This topic is important because it is very common for parents who share custody of a child to not agree on everything. It is critical to have a structured agreement to come back to when there are any disagreements about what is in the child’s best interest. A custody order is insurance that the child’s best interest will always be paramount regardless of how their parents’ lives may change. If you have any questions, contact my office to speak with an attorney.

It is not uncommon for unmarried parents who are co-parenting a child to not see eye-to-eye on decisions regarding their son or daughter. For example, one parent may believe that their child will benefit from attending a private school, but the other parent likes public schools and thinks that private school is too expensive. If such parents cannot reach an agreement, one parent may have to file a custody lawsuit to resolve the dispute. The legal system, however, can take significant time. In this case, the parents run the risk of not resolving the issue before the school year begins. This may mean that the child will attend one school and then have to switch to another school after the year has already started, impacting the child’s social and educational progress. One of the benefits of obtaining a court order is that the judge will issue an objective decision based on the best interest of the child before there are any issues. Having an order in place can prevent a dispute from arising in the first place and can also prevent the stress and resentment of the disagreement.

Another scenario could be one where there is confusion as to which parent has the child on which day. Maybe both parents showed up to the child’s school thinking it was their day with them, so Dad bought tickets to a sporting event, and Mom bought tickets to a concert. Both parents invested time and money into an activity with the child, and one will have to forgo their plans with their son or daughter, so it starts a heated argument. A custody order will lay out a permanent schedule for the parents to follow. This way, there is consistency for the child, and for the parents. This schedule will include plans for vacations, holidays, and will detail how to go about informing the other parent when you plan to take the child out of state on a trip. Whenever there is a process on how to approach a topic, it helps take the stress out of communicating with the other parent, and a custody order is just that. It helps to go back to if there are ever any issues while co-parenting.

Even if things are going great and you are finding co-parenting to be working out, it is important to have a custody order in place. It can be used to ensure that your current arrangement stays in place. No two parties get along one hundred percent of the time, so even if things are good now, they may not always be, and it is important to be prepared in the event things go awry. If both parties are happy with their current situation and draft a custody agreement without conflict, they can present this document to the Judge, who will then review and sign it. This can be done without a trial so long as both parties are in agreement and the provisions in the custody order are in accordance with the best interests of the child.

If you have any questions about how you may benefit from a custody agreement, contact my office today to speak with a Little Rock child custody lawyer. We understand that custody issues are stressful for all parties. 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.