This is the next post in a series of articles discussing the rights of fathers in Little Rock, Arkansas. Our previous post discussed the rights of married and unmarried fathers. Similar to most states, fathers in Arkansas are presumed to have the same parental rights as mothers, whether they are married or unmarried to the child’s mother. This means that fathers are entitled to seek custody, visitation, or child support in the same way as mothers are. The Court’s ultimate decisions on such matters will be based upon what is in the best interest of the child and will not be automatically biased toward the mother. As we will discuss further in this post, unmarried fathers should, however, establish their paternity as soon as possible after the child is born. If you need assistance with a child custody issue, contact our office today to speak with an attorney.
When a child is born to a married couple, the husband is presumed to be the child’s legal father and is listed on their birth certificate as such. For unmarried parents, the mother is awarded custody of the child unless the parents sign an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. Signing the Affidavit is a voluntary way to establish the father’s paternity. If paternity is in dispute, the father may be required to undergo DNA or genetic testing to prove that he is the child’s father. Until paternity is established, a dad will not have any legal rights or obligations, regarding his child. This means that until paternity is officially recognized, a father will be unable to take any legal action to request visitation, have input into decision-making, or be obligated to support the child financially. Once paternity is settled, the Court will recognize the father as a legal parent and entertain his legal actions to enforce parental rights. It is also important to note that fathers may be required to pay back child support for the period prior to establishing paternity depending upon the circumstances.
Many unmarried fathers who are in amicable relationships with their child’s mothers do not believe it is necessary to formally establish paternity. If they are still together or getting along without argument, paternity may seem like a non-issue. It is always possible that the situation will change and, if so, a father who has not established paternity may find himself separated from his child without any immediate legal recourse. Even if you are on good terms with the child’s mom, it is best to have paternity established and consider formalizing a custody order. This will allow you to have protections in place should you part ways.
If you are facing a custody dispute, contact our office to speak with an attorney. Our Little Rock lawyers are experienced in family law cases and are ready to assist you. We also handle matters in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff, and throughout the rest of Arkansas.