A PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL SHARED CUSTODY
The gold standard of joint custody laws is a rebuttable presumption of joint custody. This defines a starting point of joint custody and requires one party to present evidence to the contrary before a judge can deviate. It is not a "mandate" and does not remove judicial discretion. It does, however, put the overwhelming social science supporting joint custody into public policy and limits the free-for-all approach generally on display in family courts.
Thanks to the efforts by several legislators and our organization, things changed in a big way for Arkansas in 2021. On April 8, Governor Hutchinson signed Act 604 into law, establishing a presumption of joint custody, rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence. This is now the strongest joint custody law in the nation and will serve as a model for other states to follow.
We know from their testimony to the legislature that the Arkansas Judicial Council and the Arkansas Bar Association do not support this law, despite it being in the best interest of children. Just like they did the 2013 law "favoring" joint custody, our courts will likely work to create loopholes and undermine this new law. As such, our work on this goal will never be done. Stay tuned...
ACT 604 (2021)
Title: To amend the law concerning child custody and visitation.
Summary: To create a presumption of joint custody in cases of divorce and paternity, rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence.
Sponsors: Alan Clark (Lonsdale), Jimmy Gazaway (Paragould)
Co-Sponsors: Lowery, Brown, Cloud, C. Cooper, Cozart, Crawford, M. Gray, Haak, Hollowell, Magie, McNair, S. Berry, Christiansen, M. Davis, J. English, M. Johnson, Rapert, B. Ballinger, D. Sullivan, Irvin
Outcome: Passed the Senate 33-2 and House 71-16 (with 13 non-voting or present).