The law in Arkansas allows fathers who never married the mother of their child the right to seek visitation, shared custody or even sole custody of their children in certain situations. Educating yourself about your rights as an unmarried father can help you determine how to proceed with asserting your rights as a dad.
Creating amicable arrangements with the mother is the best option
The best case scenario that will involve the least conflict, expense and waiting involves determining realistic visitation or custody arrangements directly with the mother of your children. In some cases, the mother may be willing to voluntarily add your name to the birth certificate.
Other times, even if she is not willing to formally acknowledge you as the father, she may agree to visitation or shared custody. If the mother refuses to allow you to spend time with your child or acknowledge you as a father, you may have no right but to turn to the Arkansas family courts for assistance. The same is true for situations where the mother has lost custody of your child or is in jail.
Once you establish paternity, you have rights and responsibilities
In the event that the mother of your child refuses to acknowledge you as the father or work with you to arrange shared custody or visitation, you can ask the courts to step in. The family courts can compel the mother to present the child for genetic testing to help confirm paternity.
Provided that the testing confirms that you are the father of the child, you will then have the ability to seek enforcement of your parental rights by the Arkansas courts. You may be able to arrange shared custody or, at least, secure visitation with a court order.
It’s important to understand that your rights as a father also lead to legal responsibilities as a father. Unless you share custody equally with the mother of your child, you should know that you will also have to pay child support. Embracing that legal duty to help financially support your child is important, as it helps show the state your dedication to your role as a parent.
Don’t let fear about the legal process of establishing paternity or potential scrutiny from other people about your unmarried parenthood prevent you from developing a relationship with your child.