In the past many family law cases were settled in favor of the mother, even when the father was mentally, physically, emotionally and financially capable to care for his child. However, like other societal changes in America, fathers’ rights have evolved over time and nowadays, many courts treat parents equally in family law matters that involve a child.
In Arkansas, courts consider the best interests of the child while deciding on family law matters related to that child. In addition to the societal change, various federal and state agencies have made efforts to ensure that fathers’ rights are protected, especially when that father is unmarried.
According to Arkansas laws, a “father” is defined as the biological male parent of a child. Arkansas is one of 13 states in the country that defines a “putative father,” as a man who is not legally presumed or adjudicated to be a biological father, but who claims, or is alleged, to be a child’s father.
The Fourteenth Amendment led to many mothers placing their children up for adoption without the father’s consent, which in turn led to the termination of a father’s parental rights. Many unmarried fathers challenged this practice, and after a number of lawsuits in state courts, the U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that an unmarried father’s parental rights are protected by the judicial system once that father had established a healthy relationship with his child.
In order to voluntarily acknowledge paternity or the possibility of paternity, unmarried fathers in Arkansas must register their name with the Putative Father Registry maintained by the Division of Health. A man may also claim paternity by filing an acknowledgement or affidavit of paternity. Additionally, laws in Arkansas also permit a father to revoke his notice that he will be claiming paternity after the child is born.
Therefore, it sometimes takes some efforts to establish paternity and sometimes, it may be challenging because many fathers may not have adequate knowledge of all laws governing paternity claims in Arkansas. However, with the right guidance, an unmarried father may be able to exercise his rights to establish paternity and play an integral part in his child’s growing years.
Source: ChildWelfare.gov, “The Rights of Unmarried Fathers,” accessed on Sept. 2, 2014