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Fathers' rights movement in Arkansas gains momentum

In recent history, mothers were typically assumed to be the primary caregivers of children. However, a recent fathers' rights movement has gained momentum over the past few years in the United States, including in Arkansas. The Department of Child Support Enforcement in Arkansas looks into paternity issues in the state. While most states now do recognize the father's rights to custody in a divorce, a child born out of wedlock may still be denied interactions with the father due to the lack of any specific law.

Arkansas had the first State Annual Fatherless day rally recently. Arkansas, like many other states in the United States, has been accused of overlooking paternity rights of a biological father not married to the mother of their child. Arkansas, however, has a Putative Father Registry, registering the biological father's name and requiring that the father be informed prior to an adoption of the child. The registry, however, does not give any other paternal rights to the father. The unwed biological father thus gets no automatic paternal rights to his own child.

It must be noted, however, that with the evolution of gender roles from the classic "breadwinner dad" and the "homemaker mom," the courts have become more pragmatic. The court system went through a paradigm shift in the 1980s when fathers' rights started getting recognition. Today, joint custody is generally preferred over sole custody of the child by either parent.

In the absence of any specific legislation safeguarding the unwed father's paternal rights, the legal battle becomes more cumbersome. Arkansas does allow recognition of paternal rights if the father voluntarily registers in the Acknowledgment of Paternity registration. However, such registration does not translate into automatic paternity rights.

Source: ARKANSASMATTERS.com, "Fathers Rally to Fight for Their Rights", Marci Manley, June 13, 2014

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