Do Grandparents Have Child Custody Rights in Arkansas?
Visiting with grandchildren can be a joy for grandparents, but it can be interrupted when visitation and custody rights are in contention. According to Arkansas Code, grandparents’ rights to visit their grandchildren and even take custody, if necessary, are protected.
Understanding the circumstances and proving a grandparent’s rights have been ignored or violated can be complicated, though. There are several hurdles to navigate regarding grandparental custody or visitation rights, including if a grandparent is denied visitation rights after their adult child has died and whether a determination of the grandchild’s parents’ fitness to care for a grandchild has been made.
What Does the Arkansas Code Say About Visitation Rights?
Factors that the law will consider when it comes to grandparents’ visitation rights include the parents’ wishes for visitation and if there has been a change in the custody arrangement. According to Arkansas Code, grandparents can request visitation rights if one of the following is true:
- The child’s parents are no longer married because of death, divorce, or legal separation, or
- The child is illegitimate, and the maternal grandparent requests visitation, or
- The child is illegitimate, and the paternal grandparent requests visitation after a court has established paternity via a court order.
It should be noted that visitation cannot be requested if the child’s parents are still married. The same rules apply to great-grandparents requesting visitation. A court may deny a grandparents’ visitation rights if the child has been adopted by a third party or another family member who is not the child’s parents.
How Do the Courts Determine if Grandparents Should Have Visitation Rights?
Visitation rights for parents, grandparents, and other third parties hinge on the child’s best interests. According to Arkansas Code, a grandparent trying to apply for visitation rights should do so because the grandchild’s parents have denied visitation against the grandchild’s best interests.
For the court to grant the grandparent visitation rights to their grandchildren, they must prove they had a significant and “viable” relationship with the child and that the visitation is in the child’s best interest.
To prove there is a significant relationship between the petitioning grandparent and the grandchild in question, the grandparent must prove one of three things:
- The grandchild lived with the grandparent for at least six months with or without the current parent or custodian present, or
- The grandparent was the grandchild’s caregiver regularly for at least six consecutive months, or
- The grandparent had frequent or regular contact with the child for at least 12 consecutive months.
What Else Does the Grandparent Have to Prove For Visitation Rights?
If a grandparent can prove one of the above stipulations, they will also have to prove each of the following
- They are capable of giving the grandchild love, affection, and guidance, and
- The loss of the relationship between grandchild and grandparent could harm the child; and
- The grandparent is willing to cooperate with the parent or custodian if visitation is granted.
What Happens After a Visitation Decision is Made in Arkansas?
When a grandparent seeks visitation rights, the court will be required to grant or deny the request. Once that decision is made, an order will be written explaining the outcome of the judgment.
What Happens if Visitation Rights are Denied?
An order from the court denying grandparental visitation rights will outline the reason for denial. This order can be appealed in some circumstances; otherwise, the order will remain in effect until the child is 18, the parents or guardians change their mind, or one of the three “significant circumstances” listed above actually occur.
What Happens if Visitation Rights are Granted?
An order granting grandparental visitation rights will outline the reason or the decision along with permissions, restrictions and limitations for visits. The order can be modified if there is a change in the circumstances of visitation.
Unless otherwise specified, a grandparent’s visitation will have its own time, independent of any other custody or visitation of the child with either parent or any other grandparent.
Do Grandparents Have Rights Concerning Custody of Grandchildren in Arkansas?
There are several reasons why grandparents may become responsible for their grandchildren or seek custody, including situations where the child’s parents have passed away or the parents can no longer provide for the child. Grandparents can seek custody via a guardianship. In such a proceeding, the court will consider whether the grandparents should have guardianship or if the parents should retain custody, using a standard of what is in the best interest of the child.
Contact A Family Lawyer in Northwest Arkansas
Having the opportunity to visit grandchildren is a liberty that grandparents may have to fight for, especially if the child’s parents or guardians contest those rights. With all the factors at play, turning to a Fayetteville family law attorney may give you the best chance to retain your visitation rights or, in some cases, gain custody of your grandchild.
The Law Group of Northwest Arkansas LLP has the experience and understanding to help you navigate issues you may have with visitation or custody rights with your grandchild. We are available to answer your questions.