While some families are developed following a marriage, others occur out of wedlock. While there is no right or wrong way to start a family, unmarried parents sometimes face some legal challenges regarding their children. For some mothers, it might not be entirely clear who the father is, or the father fails to take on their parental duties. Or, unmarried mothers may face legal action by the father who is pursuing their rights. In all of these matters, paternity will likely need to be established.
How do you establish paternity in Arkansas? There are two ways to establish paternity in the state. The first is the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. This occurs when the mother and father of the child sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity, or AOP, form prior to the child turning 18 years of age. This is considered an easy and free way to establish paternity. However, sometimes the issue of paternity is contested and requires the parents to go through the second method.
The second method is to ask the Office of Child Support Enforcement, or OCSE, to assist. A mother could apply for OSCE services to help establish paternity of her child. If the purported father does not believe he is the father, OCSE gives him the opportunity to take a DNA test. If he does not agree to the test, a judge could order testing. If the purported father is not the father, the mother claiming paternity is responsible for all costs associated with the matter.
This second method could also be used by the father to gain father’s rights of a child he believes is his child. Additionally, a husband believed to be the father could use this method to disestablish paternity if he believes he is not the biological father.
When a child is born into a marriage, the law assumes that the husband is the father of the child, thus no paternity needs to be established to place the father’s name on the birth certificate. In comparison, a legal relationship is not automatic when a child is born to unmarried parents. The father’s name cannot be placed on the child’s birth certificate without the filing of an AOP, which legally establishes that he is the biological and legal father.
Paternity issues often surface when there are issues concerning child support. The financial support and well-being of a child are often the focus of the matter, and parents dealing with this or other family law issues should understand how they could best resolve these issues so the best interests of the child can be met.
Source: Dfa.arkansas.gov, “Paternity,” accessed Dec. 27, 2015