The Results Are In: You Are The Father!
What are your legal rights when you have a child with a woman, but you’re not married to her?
Unfortunately, the answer is most likely none. When an unmarried woman has a baby, she is given full legal custody of the child under Arkansas law. In this situation, the mother has the right to make all the decisions for the child such as where the child goes to school, which doctor the child sees, or who is allowed to babysit or visit the child. She could even withhold the child from you as the father if she wanted to with no legal consequences.
How do I establish paternity?
If you want to see your child without it being in the mother’s discretion, the best and most secure way to have legal rights to your child born outside of a marriage is to file a petition for paternity within the circuit court in the county where the child lives. Doing so will help establish your paternity rights and help you establish custody or visitation by court order.
If you and the child’s mother have signed an acknowledgement of paternity, you’re one step closer to establishing your custody and visitation rights as a father. An acknowledgment of paternity is a finding of paternity, but it’s not enough on its own. It serves as a basis or the first steppingstone for establishing and enforcing your rights. Your name on the child’s birth certificate or an acknowledgment of paternity is more proof that you are the father, but they cannot stand alone on their own to establish paternity. The court must make a finding that you are the father for you to have any legal rights.
After the Court finds that you are the father, you are the father of the child in every sense of the word. You have the same rights as if the child were born during a marriage. Some of these rights include custody and visitation agreements. However, establishing paternity does not automatically give you custody or visitation and it comes with the possibility of paying child support as well. This will usually all be determined during the pendency of the court case, whether by agreement of the parties or through a trial.
Once the Court finds that you are the child’s father, the judge will likely make a finding as to custody, visitation, and parent’s rights. In Arkansas, joint custody is now the presumed outcome, but the court can award another form of custody and visitation if there is clear and convincing evidence that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child. For more on joint custody see our blog Joint Custody: It’s Not Just for Divorced People Anymore.
Eason Law Can Help
At Eason Law, we have helped many people navigate paternity and custody issues. If you need an experienced legal team to help you navigate your criminal law matters, call us today and let us help you through the process.
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Jonesboro Criminal Defense & Family Law
Serving Northeast Arkansas as well as numerous other counties in Arkansas, Eason Law has built a reputation for providing excellent legal services to our clients in a courteous and professional manner. Every client has a unique need when consulting with an attorney. We work together with each individual client and tailor our representation to meet the needs and goals of each client.