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How to establish paternity if you never married the other parent

While fewer people choose marriage before having children these days, there are still some benefits to the institution. For those with children, establishing paternity is one of the biggest legal benefits of marriage.

If you have a child during a marriage, the state presumes that the married couple are the biological parents of the child in question. That makes seeking custody and parenting rights, even after a divorce, simpler.

For those who have children without getting married, establishing paternity can be a little bit more complicated. However, it is important, for many reasons, to have the actual father of the child legally recognized. Several factors will influence the necessary steps to establish paternity, including the state of the relationship between the parents.

Whether you are a father hoping to seek visitation with your child or an unmarried mother who wants to collect child support, establishing paternity in Arkansas is critical first step.

If the parents agree, and Acknowledgment of Paternity form can work

In situations with unmarried parents, so long as they both agree about the paternity, it is possible to simply fill out a form to have the father added to the birth certificate. This form, called an Acknowledgment of Paternity, is often completed at the hospital immediately following childbirth. It allows the state to add the father's name to the birth certificate.

However, parents can sign it anytime until the child reaches the age of 18. There are many potential reasons for a delay, but as long as both parents agree to sign, it can legally establish paternity in Arkansas.

This form is relatively simple and allows both parents a legal relationship with a child. However, it requires that both the father and the mother agree. If either refuses to sign or there is a question about who is actually the father, using an Acknowledgment of Paternity will not be an option.

The state can order genetic testing in contested situations

Sometimes, a woman insists that another man is the father of her child. Other times, the father in question may deny his role. Regardless of which situation applies, the other parent has the option of asking the state for assistance.

Typically, the office of Child Support Enforcement will request voluntary genetic testing first. If either parent declines the testing, the state can then ask the courts to order the testing. Once a genetic test establishes a paternal link, it's possible to assign parental rights and responsibilities.

A father seeking shared custody or visitation can move forward with his court case. Similarly, after proving that a man is the father, a genetic test can help a mother seek child support. Without a provable, legal link between the man involved and the child, the courts will not assign child support or visitation.

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