Knowledge is power. This is certainly true when it comes to family law in Arkansas. If you don’t know what your rights are or what tools are available for establishing those rights, it can be very difficult to exercise and defend your privileges Even then, it can be difficult because of ingrained bias in the system.
For example, when a married man and woman divorce and children are a factor, the courts acknowledge the theory that both the man and woman are equal when it comes to parental rights. Still, it’s not unusual for the scales to tip in favor of the mother when it comes to custody and visitation arrangements. The situation can be even more difficult if the father and mother never married.
According to some legal observers, the premise of state law regarding children out of wedlock seems to be a desire to provide some certainty around family stability. Because a birth mother can easily be identified, the preference in policy tips toward her.
In response, and to acknowledge that unwed fathers have a stake in what happens, Arkansas has the Putative Father Registry. It’s a tool that allows unmarried fathers to register as dads, before or after a child is born. It’s supposed to give the man the right to be notified before a child is put up for adoption.
The power of being on the registry is not always certain, however, as one man’s story reflects. He didn’t learn that his girlfriend was pregnant with his daughter until a month before her birth last December. The child was put up for adoption without his OK. Despite his having enrolled on the father registry and having petitioned the court for custody, the adoption proceedings reportedly continue.
Perhaps the law isn’t all it can be. Perhaps it will change. In the meantime, protecting what rights do exist depends on knowing what they are. When you have questions about the law, consult an attorney.