Little Rock Paternity Attorneys

Providing Counsel and Representation to Individuals with Legal Issues Related to Paternity throughout the Little Rock Area

Legal issues related to paternity can be highly contentious and have a substantial impact on the lives of everyone involved. The procedural and substantive law regarding paternity in Arkansas is complicated, making the assistance of an experienced attorney invaluable. The paternity lawyers at Destiny Law Firm are qualified to represent both men and women involved in paternity disputes and are committed to providing effective legal representation and actionable advice. To speak to one of our attorneys about your case, contact our office today.

Arkansas Paternity Law Basics

When a child is born and the parents are married, the child is presumed to be the biological child of the husband. It is only a presumption and the man might not actually be the biological father. (This legal presumption, until recently, with the development in DNA testing, was a non-rebuttable presumption known as The Rule in Lord Mansfield’s Case.) If it is believed the child is not the biological child of the husband, DNA paternity testing may be sought.

When a child is born to a woman who is not married, she has sole custody of the child. The father has no rights until he has established himself to be the biological father, is found to be fit and proper to have any right of visitation or care and custody and has met his financial obligations (i.e. child support) to the child. The parties can agree as to who is the father and acknowledge fatherhood by execution of an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP). This does not, however, establish a father’s rights. That can only be done through a court after the father has shown he has met the requirements for visitation and/or custody.

DNA paternity testing is relatively quick, is not invasive as it once was, and is typically done by saliva testing with a cheek swab. It costs approximately $300 to $400 and must be done by an accredited lab rather than a private home test.

Rescinding an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)

If a supposed father has signed an AOP based on the mother having lied, defrauded, or deceived him, he may be able to hire a skilled attorney to litigate in his favor. The burden of proof has a high threshold, however, so it is imperative you hire an experienced family law attorney to help establish paternity.

Importantly, individuals who have signed an AOP have the ability to rescind it within 60 days of the date it was signed and notarized. Either parent may rescind an AOP. After 60 days, parties who wish to rescind and AOP must ask a court to remove the father’s name from the child’s birth certificate.

We are often asked if a non-biological father can be removed from a birth certificate. The courts in Arkansas do not typically remove the father’s name on a birth certificate unless and until paternity is established with another father through DNA testing.

This scenario often happens in divorce situations in which a non-biological parent is being expected to provide child support for non-biological children due to the presumption of paternity given to a child born during the marriage.

Putative Fathers

If a man believes he is the father of a child, born or unborn, and he wishes to be sure any father’s rights are protected, he has a legal right to establish paternity by DNA test. He should immediately sign up on the Putative Father’s Registry at the Vital Records Division of the Arkansas Department of Health. He must then proceed to go forward legally to establish his parental rights and show he is fit and proper for visitation and/or to get custody of the child. He must begin meeting or offering to meet, any financial responsibilities he may have to the child.

Petition to Establish Paternity

Unfortunately, there are instances in which a parent does not want to submit to a request for a DNA test, often in order to avoid the financial responsibilities associated with parenthood or to deprive the other parent of legal rights and involvement. When this occurs, a Petition to Establish Paternity may be filed and the Court will order the parties and minor child to submit to a DNA test.

A father may file a Petition to Establish Paternity, and a mother cannot refuse or deny a paternity test if there is a court order requiring it. This is often done in conjunction with a Petition to Establish custody, support, and visitation.

In cases in which the genetic testing does not indicate that the man is the father, the father may request that the mother be responsible for the costs associated with taking the matter to court and the test itself. If the tests indicate that the alleged father is, in fact, the father of the child, he will usually be responsible for these fees.

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DNA Testing

DNA testing is now readily available with fairly quick results, usually costing less than $500, with results rendered in under two weeks in most cases. This should only be done by a Court approved lab. It can be done voluntarily between the parties or by court order. To have sufficient accuracy of results all 3 parties must be tested, usually by a swab of saliva from the inside of the cheek. If it becomes necessary to have a court to order a man to submit to paternity testing there can be an additional expense in petitioning the court to have it done. The cost may be borne by the mother with the court having the right to order the father to reimburse the mother if he is determined to be the father.

Denying Paternity

Importantly, while a man who is married to a mother is presumed to be the father of a child, he has the ability to deny paternity at the time of birth and before the mother leaves the hospital if the mother and biological father are in agreement. In these cases, the parties all sign the back of the Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) and have the document notarized, after which a legal relationship exists between the biological father and the child.

Contact a Little Rock Paternity Lawyer

Issues regarding paternity can be extremely complicated and have a significant impact on the lives of the people involved. Whether you are trying to establish or deny paternity, the assistance of an attorney can often have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. Even in instances where you are sure of the outcome, the representation of a lawyer can make the process go much more smoothly and ensure that you obtain the result you are seeking as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help in paternity and family law issues.