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Arkansas Grandparents' Rights

Grandparents Denied Visitation Must Prove Significant and Viable Relationship


Grandmother and little boy playing on beach
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Arkansas statutes dealing with grandparent visitation are relatively long and detailed. Grandparents may request visitation rights if the parents' marital relationship has been severed by death, divorce, or legal separation. In addition, visitation may be requested if the child is in the custody or under the guardianship of a person other than a natural or adoptive parent, or if the child is illegitimate. In the case of an illegitimate child, a paternal grandparent may request visitation only if paternity has been established in court.

As in all of the United States, the court must decide that a visitation order would be in the best interest and welfare of the child. If a parent or guardian has denied visitation as not being in the best interest of the child, the grandparent seeking visitation must rebut that presumption. The grandparent must document a "significant and viable" relationship with the child. Such a relationship is presumed to have existed if the child resided with the grandparent for six or more months, the grandparent was the caregiver for six or more months or the grandparent had "frequent or regular" contact with the child for twelve or more months.

In order to show that visitation is in the child's best interest, the grandparent must demonstrate all three of the following: an ability to give the child "love, affection and guidance"; the harm to the child that would result if visitation is denied; and a willingness to cooperate with the parent or other person having custody. Obviously, the hardest requirement for grandparents to meet is the requirement to show harm if contact is denied. The 2012 case of Bowen v. Bowen demonstrates that Arkansas courts take that requirement seriously. The Arkansas Court of Appeals found that a lower court had ignored the wishes of a parent "based solely on its personal view of the children’s best interests." In overturning, the appeals court found that the lower court had placed the burden of proof on the parent -- to show that visitation would be harmful -- rather than where it rightfully belonged, on the grandparents to show that harm would occur without visitation. The court bolstered its opinion by citing decisions in Georgia and New Jersey in which a higher standard of demonstrating possible harm was met.

Arkansas specifically grants great-grandparents the same rights as grandparents.

See the Arkansas statutes about grandparent visitation when the grandchild is in the custody of a parent and when the grandchild is not in the custody of a parent.

Go back to grandparents rights by state.

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