What if my child’s father denies paternity in Arkansas?

Establishing paternity in Arkansas opens the door for benefits for potentially everyone involved: mother, father and child.

Experts agree that children should have relationships with both their mother and father, as it typically aids in areas such as development and happiness. Along that line, establishing paternity in Arkansas has potential benefits for the mother, father and child, such as the following:

  • Either parent may file a claim for child support.
  • The father could gain legal rights to the child, such as custody or visitation.
  • The child becomes eligible for life insurance, inheritance rights, health insurance, Social Security and veterans' benefits.
  • The child's family medical history is more complete.
  • The child can develop relationships with both extended families.

There are several ways someone may legally become the father of a child. In some circumstances, a man may deny parenthood. Here is a look at Arkansas' paternity laws and the steps people in these circumstances should take.

The legalities

When a couple is married in Arkansas and a child is born to the woman, the man is presumed to be the father, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. The father's name is then added to the birth certificate. If the couple is unmarried, the father and mother may sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity so the father's name may be added to the birth certificate.

Filing a paternity suit

If the man in question denies that he is the father of a child, the mother may file a paternity suit. Similarly, a man who is not listed on a birth certificate but believes he is the father of the child may file a claim to secure legal rights. It is also possible to refute paternity claims through working with a family law attorney.

Arkansas law provides that in a paternity suit the judge may order DNA testing to help establish fatherhood. Refusing to take a paternity test allows the judge to find that person in civil contempt of court.

Using paternity to establish rights

Once paternity has been established, it may be used to grant a father, child or mother rights. Simply having an acknowledgement form does not automatically guarantee that one parent or another will receive custody or child support payments. Instead, the parents still have to go through the legal process to obtain orders settling issues of custody, visitation and child support.

It is imperative for legal, emotional and financial reasons for anyone involved in a paternity matter to protect their rights by getting comprehensive legal advice from an experienced Arkansas family law attorney. People who may need legal advice and representation include unwed mothers who want to establish legal fatherhood or seek child support; unwed fathers who want to establish paternity or seek custody or visitation rights; married men who dispute fatherhood of children of their wives; or unmarried men who deny allegations of fatherhood.

The lawyers at Hatfield Harris, PLLC, in Rogers represent mothers, fathers and men who deny fatherhood in paternity and related matters throughout northwest Arkansas.