Unmarried fathers in Arkansas must be proactive in order to retain parental rights to biological children. The court provides several means for the father to establish his rights, such as filing with state agencies to simply having his name present on the child's birth certificate. Without these steps a father could be forced to pay child support and not have visitation rights to his kids.
Putative Father Registry
Before any parental rights can be established for a father in Arkansas, he first must register his name, Social Security number and address with the Arkansas Department of Health's Putative Father Registry. This will allow him to stay informed on all legal proceedings involving his child, regardless of whether the mother informs him of them. He also must establish a significant financial, custodial or personal relationship with this child in order for his parental rights to begin.
A father who has registered with the Arkansas Department of Health and has established a significant role in his child's life has the right to petition the court of a share of custody of that child. A custody hearing must be conducted to determine the father's ability to provide a quality home for his child and to address any concerns the mother may have relating the father's increased role. Child support also may be adjusted at this hearing as payment amounts are contingent on the percentages of custody.
Unmarried fathers retain rights to visitation of any biological children as long as putative rights have been established by the court. Mothers are obligated to allow fathers to visit biological children regardless of the status of child-support payments or any other factors that do not pose a danger to the child's well-being.
Life Decisions for the Child
Regardless of married status, fathers retain putative rights to decisions regarding a child's religion, the school he attends and major medical decisions. He also must be informed of any adoption actions taken by the child's biological mother, and his signature is required for any adoption to be legal. Without a signature, the unmarried father retains his parental rights.