Arkansas Family Law on Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is generally defined as any violent act committed by one family or household member against another. Family courts recognize that domestic violence can uniquely affect both separating spouses and children, and therefore Arkansas has family law statutes that focus on domestic violence. This article highlights some of these laws.

In Arkansas, domestic abuse is any:

  • Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault between family or household members, or
  • Any sexual conduct between family or household members that constitutes a crime in Arkansas

It is important to note that "family or household members" can only mean spouses, former spouses, parents and children, people related by blood within four degrees, children residing in the household, people who currently or previously lived together, people who have a child in common, people who are currently dating, and people who previously dated.

Petition for Relief from Domestic Abuse

Victims of domestic violence can file a petition for relief with the court. The petition must allege the existence of domestic abuse, disclose the existence of any pending litigation between the parties, and disclose any prior filings of a petition for an order of protection. The petition must also include an affidavit stating the facts and circumstances of the abuse.

The following chart highlights the relief that is available for victims of domestic violence in Arkansas.

Code Section

Arkansas Code section 9-15-101 through 407: The Domestic Abuse Act – Petition for Relief from Domestic Abuse

Relief

After finding that domestic abuse has occurred, the court may provide the following relief:
  • Exclude the offender from the parties' shared dwelling, or from the victim's residence
  • Exclude the offender from the victim's place of business, school, or other locations
  • Award temporary custody (or establish temporary visitation rights) of the parties' minor children
  • Order temporary support for minor children or a spouse
  • Allow the prevailing party to receive reasonable attorney's fees
  • Prohibit the offender from contacting the victim (except under specific circumstances named in the order)
  • Direct the custody of any pet living in the household, and
  • Order other relief as the court deems necessary or appropriate for the protection of a family or household member

Time Period

Any relief granted by the court under this law will be granted for a fixed period of time for not less than 90 days and not more than 10 years.

The order for relief can be renewed if the court finds that there is still a threat of domestic abuse.

Mutual Orders of Protection

The court will only grant a mutual order or protection to opposing parties if each party:
  • Has properly filed and served a petition for an order of protection
  • Has committed domestic abuse
  • Poses a risk of violence to the other party, and
  • Has satisfied all prerequisites for the type of order and remedied sought

Child Custody and Visitation

Under Arkansas' family law on domestic violence, once the court has made a finding of domestic violence and the temporary custody of a child (or temporary visitation by a parent) is at issue the court takes the following into consideration:

  • The safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who filed the petition with the court, and
  • The defendant's history of causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or reasonable fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault to another person

There is a rebuttable presumption that it isn't in a child's best interest to be place in the custody of an abusive parent when there evidence that a pattern of abuse has occurred.

Where Can I Get Help?

If you are the victim of domestic abuse please seek help. During an emergency call 911. Otherwise, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline toll free at 1-800-799-7233 or contact the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information about Arkansas' family law on domestic violence contact a local family law attorney or criminal defense lawyer.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.