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Paternity establishment is a procedure to determine the legal father of a child born outside of marriage by either a court order or an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. The husband is considered to be the legal father if the mother was married when the child was born.

If the mother and father were not married at the time when the child was born, paternity must be proven before the court will enter an order for support. Proof will generally consist of a Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity, scientific genetic testing, direct testimony of the mother or other available evidence. If both parents agree to sign an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity, the parents do not have to go to court to establish paternity for their child.

Why is it important to establish paternity?

Both parents and the child have the right to a full parent/child relationship. Everyone deserves an opportunity to develop, enjoy and grow in the relationship. The father has the right to contribute to the success of his child's future. By establishing paternity, the father is providing his child with certain rights and privileges, which may include:

  • The emotional benefits of knowing who both parents are;
  • Emotional and financial support from both parents;
  • Access to family medical records;
  • Inheritance protections;
  • Veterans' and Social Security benefits;
  • Medical and life insurance and
  • Legal documentation of who his parents are.

Why should parents who are living together and plan to get married sign the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity?

If the parents are not married to each other when the child is born, the man is not the LEGAL father, even if the parents are living together. Signing the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity is one way to establish a legal relationship between father and child.

What if the mother is married to someone else?

If the mother was married when she became pregnant or at the time of the birth of the child, the husband is the legal father and must be shown on the child's birth certificate. If the husband/ex-husband is not the biological (natural) father of the child, the mother and the husband/ex-husband must complete, in front of a notary, the section (Denial of Husband's Paternity) in the back of the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. If this section has been completed and the Affidavit is given to the hospital staff before the birth certificate is filed, the biological (natural) father will be listed as the father on the birth certificate, provided the biological father acknowledges paternity and completes the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. If the Affidavit is not submitted before the birth certificate is filed, the husband/ex-husband will be listed as the father and a court order will be required to remove the husband/ex-husband's' name from the birth certificate.

How is paternity acknowledged when our baby is born?

When your baby is born, the hospital staff is required to ask for information to complete the baby's birth certificate. They will also have the Paternity Acknowledgment form for the mother and father to sign saying that he is the biological father.

What if we are not sure who the father is?

If either parent is unsure, do not sign the Paternity Acknowledgment form. You should have a paternity test, which is sometimes called a genetic test. For information about the test you may contact your doctor, an attorney or your local Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement.

What will the genetic test show?

The genetic test will show if a man is NOT the biological father of a child. Or, the test may show that it is almost certain, 95% or more, that a man is the father of the child.

If we sign the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity now, can we have the paternity test later?

Yes, subject to the following time limits. A person who has signed an acknowledgment may rescind within (60) days after signing. After the sixty (60) day period, and up to three (3) years, a motion to set aside the acknowledgment may only be based on allegations that the acknowledgment was obtained by fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. Then the court may direct the mother, the child and presumed father to submit to scientific testing for paternity as provided by ACA 9-10-108.

Will the father's name be on the baby's birth certificate?

If unmarried parents sign the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity form at the hospital when the baby is born, the father's name will be shown on the baby's birth certificate. The parents must tell the hospital staff what name they want for their child. If the mother agrees, the baby can have the father's last name.

Do the parents have to be in Arkansas to acknowledge paternity?

No. If the child was born in Arkansas the parents may sign the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity form in front of a notary public and then mail it to the address on the cover of the form.

If we did not sign the acknowledgment form at the hospital, what can we do?

If paternity is not established prior to leaving the hospital, parents can take the form with them and sign it later. They can acknowledge paternity for any child under the age of 18 who was born in Arkansas.

What about child support and government assistance?

If child support services are needed, either parent can contact their attorney or apply to the Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement where a copy of the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity form will be on file. If government assistance is needed, such as TEA (formerly AFDC) or Medicaid, the mother must cooperate with the Office of Child Support Enforcement to establish paternity in order to qualify for benefits. Merely signing the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity does not initiate child support or government assistance services. You must do this on your own.

If we sign the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity, does the father have the right to visit or ask for custody?

Signing the Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity does not automatically give the father the right to visitation or custody. The father may use the form to ask the court to establish these rights. If the parents are in agreement, either parent may ask the court for an order to establish their rights to visitation or custody. Parents should ask their attorney about the law.