Under Arkansas law, the mother has full custody of a child born to unmarried parents until a Court says otherwise. The father can put his name on the birth certificate, but this act alone does not entitle the father to any visitation or custody.
In order for a father to get visitation or custody, he must file a Paternity action in Circuit Court.
In this type of case, paternity may be established and the Court may then determine issues of child custody, visitation and child support. Paternity may be established if each parent signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity at the hospital or any time after that. Or, if either parent is not 100% sure who the biological father is, a DNA test may to done to establish paternity.
If paternity is established, a Court may award a father custody upon a showing that:
- He is a fit parent
- He has assumed his responsibilities toward the child by providing care, supervision, protection, and financial support for the child
- It is in the best interest of the child to award custody to the biological father
If one parent is granted primary custody, while the other parent receives visitation rights, the parent who has visitation rights will be ordered to pay child support. Another possible outcome is joint custody.
It’s not only fathers who can file a paternity action.
Mothers may also file a paternity action in order to establish paternity, establish a custody/visitation schedule, and set up child support.