Cohabitation and Custody Under Arkansas Law

By Cindy Chung

If parents have a custody dispute, they may need guidance through a court order. In Arkansas, custody laws require a review by a judge when the parents cannot agree on custody. Not surprisingly, some parents might begin dating other people while they have custody disputes or share co-parenting duties. A parent's new relationship and cohabitation might affect a judge's decision in the initial custody dispute or in the modification of an existing custody order.

Custody Disputes in Arkansas

Arkansas custody laws determine the legal standard to be applied — the best interests of the child — when parents have custody disputes. State laws specifically allow a judge to look at each parent's moral character and judgment when deciding how to rule regarding custody. The judge may also consider each parent's ability to provide for the children's moral needs. Cohabitation with a partner outside of marriage, although socially acceptable to some, may affect a judge's view regarding a parent's home during a custody determination. However, the court must consider a lengthy list of custody factors by Arkansas law, and other factors may require a custody award in favor of the parent engaged in cohabitation.

Home Studies

If parents have a pending custody dispute in an Arkansas court, the judge may require a home study to evaluate each parent's residence and the living environment available for the children. A home study generally requires an evaluation by a social worker or another type of court-approved professional. The content of each home study may include information regarding a parent's romantic relationship if the new partner lives in the parent's home. A judge might look unfavorably upon a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend who resides in the home outside of marriage; the court may see the live-in arrangement as a reflection of the parent's moral judgment. In addition, the judge may also review the home study for information regarding overnight visits by opposite-sex guests.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Terms of Custody Order

An Arkansas court order for child custody or a divorce decree generally establishes the terms to be followed by both parents. The court order or decree may include terms requested or agreed-upon by the parents, especially if they sign a "shared parenting agreement" together. For example, parents may want to include terms limiting cohabitation or setting consequences for non-marital cohabitation with a new boyfriend or girlfriend. If either parent disregards terms from the court order or decree in the future, the other parent can return to court and seek enforcement. Arkansas law provides for enforcement through a contempt action filed with the court that ordered the existing custody terms.

Custody Modification

Cohabitation may affect parents' rights even if they have an existing order for child custody and visitation. Under Arkansas law, either parent may return to court and ask the judge to change the existing order through a petition for modification. To get a modified court order for custody, the parent requesting the new terms must prove a "material change in circumstances." If one of the parents starts cohabiting with a new partner, the court might view the new living arrangement as justification for a custody change. However, the judge must still make an overall determination of the child's best interests.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Effect of Cohabitation on Child Custody in Kansas



Related articles

Relocating With Children During a Divorce in Florida

When parents divorce in Florida, they generally need a court order for custody and visitation. Before either parent relocates with the children, the parents should check the terms of any existing court orders, whether temporary or permanent, for limits on parental relocation. Parents often need to file petitions for court approval before moving away with their children. A mother or father on either side of a parental relocation case may benefit from representation by a Florida attorney.

Remarriage Law in California

After a marriage ends, former spouses may find love with new partners and decide to remarry. A previously married individual cannot remarry until after a court has issued a judgment of divorce — California law requires at least six months between the date of filing for divorce and the judgment. Remarriage may affect the legal issues from an individual's previous marriage. For example, an ex-spouse's remarriage may affect child custody, child support or alimony terms established during a past divorce.

Idaho Child Custody Rights: A Child's Right to Decide

In Idaho, parents may have joint custody, which allows both to make important decisions concerning the child and spend time with the child. If the judge declines to award joint custody, he must give a reason. In some cases, the child may have a preference regarding custody; Idaho law allows the courts to consider the child's wishes. However, because children often feel the stress and tension of a custody dispute or a divorce, some parents may prefer to avoid placing their children in the middle of a conflict.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Laws of Divorced Living Arrangements in Georgia

Spouses generally live in separate homes after they end their relationship. Although former spouses would likely prefer ...

Easy Ways to Change the Custody of Parents in Wisconsin

If parents end their relationship, they must often continue to interact as the co-parents of their children. Although ...

Do You Need to Be Divorced to File for Custody in PA?

When parents split or decide to raise their children in separate homes, each parent may need to learn more about ...

What Determines Physical Custody in Maryland?

Understanding what physical custody is and why it is ordered by Maryland judges can help parents decide which type of ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED