When a mother is married at the time she gives birth, her husband is legally presumed to be the child’s biological father. If the couple later splits up, that generally makes it easy to establish matters of support.
But what if the mother and the father aren’t married? If you’re about to have a child with a partner you never married, it can be a little more complicated. Here are some options:
A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity
Do you and the child’s father agree about the child’s paternity? If so, you can use an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form to establish the baby’s relationship with their father. AOPs are available in the hospital where you give birth, through the Office of Child Support Enforcement and the Arkansas Department of Health.
Judicial establishment through genetic testing
It’s key to remember that the AOP has to be completed voluntarily by both a child’s mother and father – so what happens if your baby’s father won’t sign?
You then have the option of asking the court to order confirmation of the biological relationship between the father and your child through genetic (DNA) testing. If you’re on public assistance, there’s no fee. If you’re not, the father may be required to pay for the tests and the court costs once his paternity is confirmed. (If testing doesn’t confirm their relationship, you may be charged those fees.)
There are a lot of good reasons to formally establish a child’s paternity, not the least of which is the fact that it paves the way for an order of support and a formal parenting plan. Regardless of how your relationship with your child’s father evolves, that’s legal protection that you need.