Grandparent Visitation in Arkansas

If you want to understand the law, you have to understand this: It’s about striking a balance between competing interests (or rights, as the case may be). The law surrounding grandparent visitation in Arkansas is an excellent example of how this balance works—and why achieving this balance can be so difficult.

On one hand, you have parents and their rights. Everyone pretty much agrees that parents should be able to make the decisions that affect their kids—unless, of course, the parents are unfit. Under normal circumstances, mommies and daddies don’t like the courts telling them what’s best for their kids. Subject to certain limitations, parents have a fundamental right to parent; as the word “fundamental” suggests, you don’t mess with that right unless you have a good reason—and sometimes grandparent visitation is not a good enough reason.arkansas-grandparent-visitation

Grandparents, however, don’t have a fundamental right to act as grandparents. But they do have some rights, especially in our society, where grandparents play an increasingly important role in raising children. (As an aside, let me encourage any Arkansas grandparents who are currently helping to raise their grandchildren: Thank You!).

The law about grandparent visitation in Arkansas is built to balance these two interests—a parent’s right to parent and the right that a grandparent has to keeping a good relationship with his or her grandchild.

What Do Grandparents Need to Do to Petition for Visitation with a Grandchild?

Grandparents may petition the court in the state of Arkansas to have visitation with their grandchild. This can be a complicated process that would benefit from the assistance of a skilled family law attorney. 

A grandparent can get court-ordered grandparent visitation if the following conditions are met:

1. The marriage between the parents of the child has ended due to divorce, death, or legal separation. (Or the grandparent is one of the mom’s parents or one of the dad’s parents and paternity has been established.

2. The grandparent can show a significant and viable relationship with the child and that the grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interest.

What Do the Courts Consider When Deciding if a Grandparent Has Been an Influential Part of a Grandchild’s Life?

The following factors may be considered when determining the level of influence a grandparent has had in a child’s life:

  • Whether you have been a part of the life of your grandchild since birth 
  • Whether you have been the caregiver for up to twelve months 
  • Whether your grandchild has lived with you for six months with or without a parent

The requirements for a significant and viable relationship are set forth in the statute (Arkansas Code Annotated § 9-13-103), as are the requirements for what is in the best interest of the child.

If visitation is then approved, the police will enforce the order. However, if one party does not follow the visitation order, the parent with custody must go back to court to ensure that the order is followed. 

What if the Grandchild was Given Up for Adoption?

If a grandparent petitions for visitation of a child that has been given up for adoption, the courts can order visitation if it is in the child’s best interest. Because adoption ends legal ties between the child and the child’s parents, it also ends ties with extended relatives.

Thus, the grandparents have no right to further visitations with children who have been adopted out of the family. 

Can Grandparents Petition for Custody of a Grandchild? 

The courts will consider what is in the best interest of the child, in every case. In cases where the parents are both deceased before the child is of legal age, the grandparents may petition the courts to adopt the child. The courts may prefer to give custody to a family member who has been a part of the child’s life, which may or may not be the grandparents.  

In cases of parental rights being severed due to illegal drug use, criminal activity, or parents being unfit to raise the child for any reason, a grandparent may petition to adopt their grandchild if they have remained a part of the child’s life and have been a financial supporter for six months or more. 

Temporary custody may be given to a grandparent in an emergency situation if the child is deemed in danger if left with the parents. One consideration would be whether the grandparents can meet the financial needs of the child without hardship.

If you’re a grandparent and you think that you can meet these requirements, please contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation with an experienced family lawyer. We can help you decide what the next step should be.