Adoptive parents may wonder if the fact they adopted their child will affect their right to custody and visitation during a divorce. In general, Arkansas law uses a standard approach to custody issues in divorce cases, regardless of whether the parents have biological or adopted children. However, an adoption by both parents or a stepparent adoption by one spouse might become one of the facts considered by an Arkansas court when deciding how to award custody in a divorce case.
Legal Effect of Adoption in Arkansas
In Arkansas, an adoption establishes a legal parent-child relationship between the adoptive parents and a child. Arkansas law requires an adoption consent or a court-ordered termination of the birth parents' rights before the adoptive parents gain full legal rights to the child. When the court issues the final decree of adoption, the adoptive relationship permanently ends the legal relationship between the child and birth parents. Accordingly, parents with a finalized adoption have the same legal rights as they would've enjoyed had the child had been born to them during their marriage. If adoptive parents later divorce, each parent has the right to assert custody and visitation rights or request child support, just as if the child had been born to the marriage.
In a stepparent adoption, the spouse of the child's legal parent adopts the child. A stepparent adoption requires an adoption consent or termination of parental rights from the parent who is not married to the stepparent. Some stepparents have strong relationships with their stepchildren and would like to maintain these ties after divorce. If a stepparent has already received a final decree of adoption before the couple divorces, he is a legal parent who may choose to assert custody and visitation rights. In some divorce cases, the stepparent may need to prove to the court why he or she should gain custody over the spouse who is the child's biological parent.
Adoptive Parents’ Divorce Proceedings and Custody
In an Arkansas divorce, parents must plan their children's custody and visitation arrangements. If the parents can agree on each parent's custody rights, they can settle their differences in a written agreement for the court to approve as part of their divorce. However, if parents cannot agree on how to share custody of their children, the court must consider each parent's custody preferences and make a decision. The court may also need to decide child support issues according to the guidelines set forth in Arkansas law.
Custody Factors in Arkansas
Arkansas has established factors for the court to consider before it can decide how to award custody between parents going through a divorce. The Arkansas courts use these factors to make a custody plan in the child's best interests. In general, the factors remain the same regardless of whether the divorce involves two adoptive parents, one parent and an adoptive stepparent, or two biological parents. The court must consider each parent's willingness to encourage the child's relationship with the other parent, the home environment provided by each parent, the character demonstrated by each parent and the child's preferences, among other things. Although the factors do not specifically mention adoption, the court might consider the adoption as part of its decision-making process. For example, the court might need to look at an adoptive stepparent's relationship with the child to determine if the stepparent should have custody rights or extensive visitation.