When a married woman gives birth to a child, the state of Arkansas assumes that her husband is the child’s legal and biological father. He does not need to take any action in order for his parental rights to be recognized and his name to appear on the child’s birth certificate. However, for unwed fathers, things are a little different. To be recognized as your child’s legal father, you and the mother must sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form (at the hospital or after the fact) or, if the mother is not cooperating, you must petition family court to recognize your paternity.

Many unwed fathers do not seek legal paternity, either because they are not aware that failure to do so will prevent them from asserting their rights as a parent, or because they do not want to be obligated to pay child support if they eventually separate from their child’s mother. However, there are many benefits of establishing your legal paternity that most agree far outweigh any negative effects.

1. You can petition the court for visitation rights or even custody.

Arkansas courts are not allowed to take the parents’ genders into consideration when determining what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests. With legal paternity, you can ask the court for custody if you think it would be better for your child to live with you. You can also request visitation rights if your child’s mother is trying to prevent you from seeing him or her.

2. Your child can enjoy your benefits.

Do you have health insurance through your employer? In order for your child to have coverage on your policy, you must have legally established paternity. You also need paternity for your child to benefit from your life insurance if you pass away or inherit your assets if you do not have a will.

3. Your child’s doctor can access important genetic information.

Knowing what medical issues your child may have a genetic predisposition towards can help his or her doctor provide them better preventative care. They will only be able to access this information from your side of the family if you have legally established paternity.

If you are an unwed father and you’re ready to legally establish your paternity, the OMG team can help you navigate this legal process. Whether you simply forgot to fill out the form at the hospital or your child’s mother is disputing your role, we can help you take the necessary steps to assert your rights and enjoy the benefits of legal paternity. Contact us today!