Most people have seen or heard about the daytime talk shows which test a potential father’s DNA to establish paternity of a child. These shows are very public and are aimed solely at entertaining the audience. For everyone else, luckily there are more private avenues parents can go through to establish fatherhood in Arkansas.
First, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), there is a pre-established legal relationship between a father and child if the child is born to a married couple. Nothing else is required as the law presumes a husband is the father to his wife’s son or daughter.
However, as the public is aware, not every child is born into a married couple’s relationship. For these situations, Arkansas has a few ways men can establish that they are the father of a child.
Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity
The DFA states that a mother and father can voluntarily file an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) any moment before a child turns 18. The AOP form must be notarized and properly filed, but this method does not have any cost associated with it and does not require court intervention.
An AOP is used most often by parents who were not married at the time of birth but married at a later date. Additionally, AOPs may be used if a mother has a child with someone other than her current spouse, but couples should seek the legal advice of an experienced family law attorney if this is their situation.
Office of Child Support Enforcement
When couples disagree about a child’s paternity, a mother can ask the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) to intervene and allow the potential father to submit to genetic testing. If a man will not undergo testing, mothers should consult a qualified child custody attorney to obtain a court order directing the potential father to appear for the tests.
Paternity’s Other Impacts
Establishing paternity — or in some cases disestablishing — is very important for the future care of a child. There can be child support and custody implications, as well as the emotional impact on a child of knowing or not knowing who their father is. Anyone seeking to establish the paternity of a child, or having questions about child support or custody, should immediately speak with an experienced family law attorney.