Paternity Questions for Fathers

How can OCSE assist with establishing paternity? 

If the custodial parent applies for OCSE services, OCSE can take steps to establish paternity for a child. Arkansas law does not allow OCSE to petition the court to establish paternity on behalf of the noncustodial parent. If a case is not open with OCSE by the custodial parent, then you may wish to seek the advice of a private attorney.

What is paternity acknowledgment? 

Paternity acknowledgment is one way a child's father can become the legal father when the parents are not married to each other. If both parents agree to sign the paternity acknowledgment form, the parents do not have to go to court to establish paternity for their child.

How is paternity established? 

If the father and mother were not married at the time of the child's birth, an Affidavit of Acknowledging Paternity or a court order naming the legal father establishes paternity. The alleged father may voluntarily admit that he is the father of the child. This can be done through the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Program of Arkansas that is offered at all birthing centers in Arkansas, all Child Support Enforcement offices, and all Vital Records offices. 

In cases where the alleged father does not admit paternity, a court hearing and/or paternity test can be scheduled. Paternity tests examine the genetic markers of the mother, alleged father, and the child. The paternity tests will either indicate the likelihood of paternity or exclude the alleged father is excluded (it is determined he is not the father), the mother may be required to pay for the tests.

What is so important about establishing paternity? 

Paternity helps children have a relationship with both parents, receive financial support from both parents, and qualify for benefits, such as father's health insurance or Social Security. Paternity helps fathers have a relationship with their child and request the right to visit the child. There are strong indications that children whose fathers take active roles in their upbringing lead more successful lives.

Will establishing paternity give me visitation and custody rights?

Signing the acknowledgment form does not automatically give a parent 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.

Will I have to pay child support if I sign the Voluntary Affidavit of Paternity? 

Signing the Voluntary Affidavit of Paternity establishes the legal father of the child. The court may be asked to establish the support obligation at a later time.

How can I be sure the child is mine? 

You may request DNA testing prior to signing the Voluntary Affidavit of Paternity. OCSE can assist you provided the custodial parent has opened a case with OCSE. DNA testing is available privately, as well.

The mother is married to or is going to marry someone else. Why should I have to pay support? 

If the mother was married when she became pregnant or anytime while she was pregnant, but the husband is not the biological father, OCSE will assist the custodial parent in establishing paternity and court ordered support from the biological father of the child.

I signed a paper saying I was the father, but now I don't think I am. What can I do? 

OCSE is not authorized to disestablish paternity. You may wish to consult with the court and/or a private attorney.