Filing for Joint Legal Custody in Arkansas
If you have children when filing for divorce, you may have questions and concerns about child custody. Contested custody is when you and the child’s other parent cannot agree on who will have custody of the child. Judges decide legal custody based on the Best Interests of the Child Standard, including a variety of factors from environment and economics to child’s preference and history of domestic abuse. In these instances Arkansas judges cannot favor the mother just because she is the mother, though many fathers continue to believe or fear custody decisions are biased against them. But what if you and your (ex) spouse still get along?
Though it gets less play in primetime legal dramas, in some cases it can be in your child’s best interest to file for joint legal custody. Parents can ask the judge to order “friendly parent provisions” and continue to care for the child with equal rights. Your child may split time living with his/her parents, and in many cases parents will share equally in making important decisions dealing with the child. There are reasons, however, why you – or the judge – may not feel that joint custody is in the best interests of your child.
So what are the pros and cons of filing for joint legal custody?
Pros of Joint Legal Custody
Children in joint custody families are able to see both parents as equals, instead of one as a “visitor” in their life. Studies reveal that children aren’t generally confused by this living situation, and the benefits extend beyond having two stable parents. Joint custody parents experiences fewer instances of re-litigation (over access, money, etc) and a child’s self-esteem remains higher during times of parent conflict than it does in homes with individual custody and visitation. Additionally, co-parents tend to do better with financial payments as they feel invested in their child’s life, not like he/she was taken away. Co-parenting can also reduce the stress and cost of substitute care like nanny’s and babysitters.
Cons of Joint Legal Custody
For all of the positive aspects that come with joint legal custody, there are negatives that you should consider. To begin, your child will have to adjust to living in at least one new location, and it can be very stressful to pack up and move mid-week or every other week. On top of that, pressure is often placed on the child to keep track of his/her belongings and adjust to each move/custodian change, and this increased responsibility can become excessive. Co-parenting doesn’t work for every family. One parent may have little experience parenting and need classes before joint custody makes sense for the child. When you file for joint custody, both parents are responsible for the child’s day-to-day care, which means housing, location and career can be impacted. And if one parent does move, you must deal with the significant hurdles that come with long-distant parenting.
Beyond these other challenges, many co-parents fall into patterns of parallel parenting. In parallel parenting, each parent makes decisions for the child without consulting the other. Over time, your child can get caught in the middle of this passive-aggressive conflict, asked to pass on messages or “spy” on the other parent. Additionally, parents may begin equating their success as caretakers with the amount of time they spend with their child instead of the quality of time spent.
If you are currently or will soon be going through a divorce and you have children, it is important to consider all of your options when it comes to child custody and child care. From sole custody and joint custody to visitation, child support and contempt, attorney Ben T. Roberds has the family law and courtroom experience you need to help you protect your child’s best interests.
Located on the Bentonville Square, Roberds Law Firm is one of northwest Arkansas’ premier general practice and family law firms. Call (479) 464-0904 today to schedule a complementary, private consultation.