VICKIE LYNN COCHRAN attorney at law
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Showing that visitation is in a child's best interests

When making custody and visitation decisions in Arkansas, the court has one basic focus that is applied to every case: What is in the child's best interests?

Parents often get to court thinking about their own desires and what they'd like to get out of the arrangement. While the court will certainly listen to what you want, your happiness is not the overall goal. Above all else, the court wants to make sure that the child is safe and happy.

As such, when you're being asked about your lifestyle, you need to show that visitation is in the child's best interests by demonstrating that there will not be any drawbacks. You must tell the truth, but be sure that you gear your answers around this idea.

For example, you may be asked if you smoke to determine if the child will be around second-hand smoke when he or she is with you, as this has been linked to cancer, respiratory issues, and the like. When answering, if you do smoke, make sure you clarify that it's something you do on your own time and that you won't do it around the child.

You could be asked about many other habits and lifestyle choices, such as whether or not you drink, if you have firearms in the house, and if you've ever been convicted of a crime. It's often wise to anticipate these questions and consider your answers in advance so that you can show they are not going to negatively impact the child.

When you go before the court, you must know what legal steps will play out and how best to protect your rights as a parent.

Source: FIndLaw, "Parental Visitation Rights FAQ," accessed Feb. 23, 2016

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