Revoking custody rights -- often a part of terminating parental rights altogether -- is a serious legal move that should be reserved for extreme cases of child abuse or neglect. Arkansas law prioritizes the best interests of the child above all other considerations and courts will only revoke custody rights if the judge feels it is in the child's best interest to do so. Custody rights may be revoked temporarily while a parent gets treatment or, in cases of chronic abuse, a parent's rights to her child may be terminated if she shows no hope of improvement.
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Types of Custody
The term "custody" can mean a variety of things, and there is a distinction in Arkansas law between legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to decision-making authority over the child, and legal custody may be shared or fall to one parent. Physical custody governs who the child lives with, and may be joint or sole. In sole custody arrangements, the non-custodial parent typically still gets visitation. When custody rights are revoked, parents typically lose rights to physical and legal custody as well as visitation. If the revocation is temporary, the parent who lost her rights may be granted supervised visitation a few hours a week.
Filing the Petition
Because custody revocations can be complex proceedings, it's wise to hire a family law attorney to represent you. You can request revocation of custodial rights as part of your divorce proceeding. If you are already divorced or were never married, however, you must file a petition to modify your custody arrangement with the clerk of the family court in the county where you reside. This petition will only temporarily revoke custodial rights, but is typically a necessary prerequisite for permanently revoking rights. If you have previously filed a temporary revocation petition, or if you can prove chronic abuse, file a petition to terminate parental rights instead. You must serve the other parent with a copy of the petition. The clerk will schedule a hearing after you file the petition and pay the filing fee.
Considerations for Revocation
There is a presumption in Arkansas law that having time with both parents is in a child's best interests. However, if one parent has abused the child, engaged in criminal behavior or is addicted to drugs or alcohol, this creates a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interests of the child to live with that parent. The parent asking for termination of rights must then show it is also not in the child's best interests to visit with the parent. You should point to any danger posed to the child, any negative changes in the child's behavior when she visits the other parent and other factors that make it clear the environment provided by the other parent is a problematic one.
Hearing for Revocation
At the revocation hearing, you should call witnesses and submit evidence that support your case that it is not in the best interests of your child for your ex to have custodial rights. Communications with your ex, police reports, information from mental health professionals, your child's school and medical records, and other documents that reveal a problematic relationship between your child and your ex may all be helpful.