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What tests are available in Arkansas to establish paternity?

Parental rights aren't automatic for unmarried fathers. In Arkansas, certain legal steps must be taken to obtain fathers' rights. Some are easier and less costly than others.

Unmarried fathers do not have to wait until a baby is born to establish paternity, provided a mother-to-be cooperates and funds are available for testing. Waiting until the baby arrives may be a better option, depending upon individual circumstances and concerns about test expenses.

Three different paternity tests may be conducted while the mother is pregnant. Two procedures, an amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling, are invasive and performed at different pregnancy stages. Both tests carry some health risks for the mother and child and require a doctor's permission.

The non-invasive, prenatal paternity test involves DNA testing of blood samples from the father and the pregnant mother, whose blood contains the child's DNA. The test, with nearly 100 percent accuracy, can be performed any time following the eighth week of pregnancy.

Unmarried fathers and mothers can assert the biological dad's legal rights after a child is born. The parents may complete an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, which becomes part of the child's birth record at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. An AOP establishes the legal rights for the biological father.

In Arkansas, a married man is presumed to be a child's parent. Without a paternity test, problems may develop for married or unmarried dads listed on birth certificates, when a paternity test later reveals he is not the child's biological father.

Paternity testing following a child's birth involves comparing a father and baby's DNA, determined from samples taken from the child's umbilical cord, cheek swab or a blood sample.

Speaking with a fathers' rights attorney can be valuable before making any of these decisions. It's important to have a lawyer assess your situation, so you understand the implications of a VOP signing and pre- or post-natal paternity test.

Source: American Pregnancy Association, "Paternity Testing" Dec. 25, 2014

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