Father with his daughterThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing the rights of fathers in Little Rock and elsewhere in Arkansas. Our previous post provided an overview of the topics to be discussed throughout this series. It also stressed the importance of contacting an attorney as soon as possible to establish and preserve your parental rights. In this post, we will review the rights of fathers, whether married or unwed, in connection with child custody issues. Many fathers fail to enforce their rights because they believe that the Courts will be biased in favor of the mother in such matters. It is important to understand, however, that the law protects fathers’ interests equally. If you or a loved one needs assistance with a child custody dispute, contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Arkansas fathers, married or unmarried, have the same parental rights as Arkansas mothers

Arkansas law presumes that both parents, regardless of gender, should share joint custody of their child. This means that mothers are not given a preference to fathers under the law. This is true whether or not the parents are married or unmarried. Either parent can seek custody, visitation, or child support from the other. The ultimate decision regarding the child’s care and custody is based upon what the Judge decides is in the child’s best interest. This is a multi-factor analysis, taking into consideration the physical and emotional health and well-being of the child, each parent’s ability to care for and support the child, etc. Some fathers hesitate to push the issue of custody and assume that the Court will side with the child’s mother. The Court’s “best interest” analysis, however, should not be based on gender-biased viewpoints. It is imperative, therefore, to fight for your legal rights. An experienced attorney will gather evidence in support of your position and present your case clearly and effectively to the Judge.

Fathers should establish paternity as soon as possible

If a father is not on a child’s birth certificate, it is wise to establish paternity as soon as possible, even if the couple is on good terms. Arkansas, like other states, will not recognize a father’s legal rights to see their child or have any input into their lives until paternity is established. If you are unmarried or are separated but getting along with your child’s mother, enforcing your parental rights may not seem like an issue. If a disagreement arises, however, a dad without proof of paternity will not be able to enforce his rights through the legal system. Once established, either by the voluntary acknowledgment of the mother or through court-ordered genetic testing, the Court will recognize the father’s ability to seek custody or visitation.

If you are facing a child 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.