All parents, regardless of gender, have the right to a relationship with their child, and this right is enforced by state laws. Fathers in the state of Arkansas have the right to a relationship with their child just as much as mothers do. Additionally, Arkansas state laws can stop the court from interfering in a child/parent relationship unless absolutely necessary, such as with cases involving domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect of some kind. All decisions the Arkansas Family Law court makes regarding children are also guided by the best interests of the child standard.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Mothers have traditionally been viewed as the most important relationship a child has and have also been considered to be key to a child’s development. It is important to know fathers also play a very important role in a child’s life and can act as capable caregivers as well as active disciplinarians. Studies have also proved having a father who is involved, affectionate, and supportive in a child’s life is an important part of the child’s development including progression of language skills, social skills, and cognitive development as well as building confidence and reaching academic achievement.
Establishing Paternity for a Father’s Rights in Arkansas
For most men, becoming a father is the greatest moment of their lives. However, there are some situations where the man does not know he is a father until he receives notice from the court that he has been named in a paternity suit. Paternity is defined as “the status of being a father,” and a paternity suit establishes paternity and rules on who the child’s biological father is. The easiest way for parents to establish a child’s paternity is for both the mother and father to sign a document called a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, which is submitted to the court and approved by an Arkansas judge.
A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity is a legally binding document officially establishing the child’s paternity. In cases when the mother and father are not in agreement on who the child’s biological father is, a court action can be started to officially establish paternity. Under Arkansas state law, any of the following individuals can bring a paternity action:
- The child’s mother
- Any man who believes he is the child’s father
- A parent or grandparent of any man who is deceased but believed he was the child’s father
- The Office of Child Support Enforcement
When a paternity action is started, the judge often orders genetic testing for the child, the mother, and the potential father. Under Arkansas law, a genetic test is only valid when it produces a 95 percent likelihood that the man in question is the child’s father. Additionally, state law allows for a paternity action to be brought to court any time after the child is born up until the child passes away – essentially, this means a paternity action can be brought after the child is considered an adult.
Best Interest of the Child Standard in Arkansas
Like many other states, judges in the state of Arkansas use the “best interest of the child” standard in order to guide their decision making in child custody and parental rights cases. Under the best interests of the child standard, judges base their decision making on certain factors, which include, but are not limited to:
- The child’s preference, granted he or she is of an appropriate age
- The capability of both parents to allow the child to continue a positive and loving relationship with the other parent
- The capability of both parents to properly care for the child, including providing shelter, education, medical care, and other essentials for the child’s upbringing
- Any evidence of domestic violence toward the child, the other parent, grandparents, or any other household member
- Any evidence of sexual abuse toward the child, the other parent, or any other household member
- The presence of a registered sex offender in the home of any parent seeking custody
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
Any parent of a child has a right to seek Arkansas custody and/or visitation, and this right is the same for both the child’s father and mother. This right is enforced regardless of whether or not the child’s parents were married. Again, judges in the state of Arkansas use the best interests of the child standard to guide their decision making when it comes to custody. These same guidelines also apply to a visitation schedule when parents are not awarded joint custody. In all of these circumstances, a father’s rights are equal to the rights extended to the child’s mother.
Father’s Right to Child Support
Both a child’s mother and father, regardless of if they were ever married, have a responsibility to support their child. Many states have specific rules when it comes to calculating the financial responsibilities of a single, separated, or divorced parent and also have laws in place to help ensure the payment of child support. Parents do have the option to enter into their own agreement regarding child support, but it is important that these agreements meet the state’s minimum requirements.
Fathers have an equal right to collect child support as mothers do. Should the father be named the primary custodial parent, it is very likely the child’s mother is granted visitation time with the child but is also ordered to pay child support based on the calculations used in the state of Arkansas to outline the amount of child support. Additionally, fathers also have the right to enforce awarded child support payments, which is found under state law.
A division of the Department of Finance and Administration called the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) is responsible for helping parents collect child support orders. Additionally, this office helps to locate absent parents, secure compliance of child support payments, and also helps to establish paternity whenever necessary. Fathers finding themselves in this position have just as much right to use the resources of the Office of Child Support and Enforcement as a mother does.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
Since courts have traditionally sided with the mother in child custody cases, the father’s rights are often overlooked. It can be hard for fathers to overcome these roadblocks, but they often have the help of a legal professional well versed in child custody and parental rights laws for the state of Arkansas. These attorneys work closely with fathers to establish their parental rights and get them the custody agreement or visitation schedule they deserve. Should the father be granted full custody, the Arkansas father’s rights lawyer can also help establish and enforce child custody payments.