You love your child, provide for him or her and make responsible parenting decisions. You are clearly acting as your child’s father, so do you need to take the time to establish legal paternity? It may seem unnecessary, but establishing paternity in Arkansas is extremely important, especially if your relationship with the child’s mother could change in the future.

There are several vital reasons to officially establish paternity. By doing so, you may help your child understand his or her ancestry. Establishing paternity helps ensure you have the legal right to maintain a relationship with your child. Your paternity status may also affect custody and child support arrangements and give your child access to benefits such as your health insurance coverage.

In Arkansas, there are several ways to establish paternity depending on your unique circumstances. The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration describes what you need to do to establish yourself as your child’s legal father.

  1. Marriage to the child’s mother

If you are married to your child’s mother, the state assumes you are the father. Your name is on the child’s birth certificate.

  1. Acknowledgment of Paternity

If you and the child’s mother are not married, you may establish paternity by filling out and signing an official Acknowledgment of Paternity form. You may do this any time before your child turns 18. The form requires notarized signatures from you and the child’s mother. There is no fee or blood test required with a voluntary AOP, though you may choose to take a genetic test first if you want.

  1. Court order

In some cases, establishing paternity may require help from a court. Most of the time, court-ordered paternity occurs when a mother claims a man is the father of her child but the man does not agree. However, there may be circumstances that require you to go to court to establish yourself as your child’s legal father.

If you and your child’s mother are not married, establishing paternity may be the first step in getting visitation and/or custody rights. It may also help provide your children with more financial and familial stability.