Paternity Questions for Mothers

How can OCSE assist with establishing paternity?

By applying for child support services, OCSE can take steps to help a custodial parent establish paternity for a child. The OCSE caseworker needs as much information as you can provide about the alleged father and the facts about your relationship with him, your pregnancy, and the birth of your child. Some of these questions may be personal, but OCSE must keep the information that you give confidential. 

The caseworker will also want to know whether the alleged father ever provided any financial support, or in any other way acknowledged - through letters or gifts - that the child was his. A picture of the alleged father with the child is helpful, as well as any information from others who could confirm your relationship with him.

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 all 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. The alleged father must pay for the costs of the tests. If the alleged father is excluded (it is determined he is not the father), the mother may be required to pay for the tests.

I'm about to have a child and I am not married. How do I establish paternity and obtain an order for support? 

Once the child is born you can complete the OCSE application for child support services. If the father is willing to sign documents admitting paternity and agreeing to support, then enforcement and collection can proceed. If the father will not admit paternity, it will be necessary for OCSE to contact the noncustodial parent regarding genetic testing. Enforcement action will proceed depending upon the outcome of the genetic testing.

The father of my child said I would never get a paternity judgment on him because he would just leave the state. What happens in this case? 

OCSE will ask the state child support agency in the putative father's state of residence to assist in establishing paternity and a support obligation and then assist in enforcing that obligation.

Do I need to establish paternity now if the father and I are getting along and he's helping me support our child? 

It is always best to establish legal parentage for the child so that the child will qualify for certain benefits, such as the father's health insurance or social security.

What if I don't know who the father is? 

Provide as much information as you have on the person you believe to be the father of the child. DNA testing will be arranged to determine the possibility of paternity. If the father could be one of several men, each may be required to take a genetic test. These tests are very accurate, and it is almost always possible to determine who fathered a baby and to rule out anyone who did not.

I am applying for public assistance. Do I have to provide information about the father? 

To be eligible for assistance programs through DHS, you must provide information to help to identify the father and collect child support from him. Any child support collected will be used to help support your children - going either directly to you or to repay the state for your assistance grant. Your child support caseworker will explain how the child support collected will be applied. 

If you are afraid that the father will hurt you or your child, you will need to contact your DHS caseworker and explain your concerns. If DHS determines that you have good cause not to cooperate with OCSE, they will notify OCSE to close your case.

Who pays for the tests if I am not on public assistance? 

If DNA testing proves the alleged father is the biological father, then he pays. If the tests prove the alleged father is not the biological father, then the custodial parent pays.

My children and I need money now. The noncustodial parent left us ten years ago. Can OCSE still take my case? 

If you apply for services, OCSE will try to find the noncustodial parent to establish or enforce a child support order obligation. Be sure to give your caseworker all the information you have that might help find the parent. 

OCSE can assist in establishing paternity for children under 18. If the child is 18 or older, you will need to seek the advice of an attorney.

What happens after paternity is established? 

If it becomes necessary to establish a child support order, the OCSE caseworker may discuss the child's financial and medical needs with the father and what he is required to pay for child support according to the state child support guidelines. OCSE will then ask the court to establish an order for support.