Arkansas Paternity Law


Paternity – General – Arkansas

Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law applicable to an action to establish Paternity in the State of Iowa, but does include basic and other provisions.

Arkansas Code
Title 9. Family Law.
Subtitle 2. Domestic Relations.
Chapter 10. Paternity.
Subchapter 1. General Provisions.

Actions governed by rules of civil procedure – Limitations periods – Venue – Summons – Transfer between local jurisdictions.

(a) An action to establish the paternity of a child or children shall be commenced and proceed under the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure applicable in circuit court and chancery court, and the juvenile division thereof, as amended from time to time by the Arkansas Supreme Court or the General Assembly.

(b) Actions brought in the State of Arkansas to establish paternity may be brought at any time. Any action brought prior to August 1, 1985, but dismissed because of a statute of limitations in effect prior to that date, may be brought for any person for whom paternity has not yet been established.

(c) Venue of paternity actions shall be in the county in which the plaintiff resides or, in cases involving a juvenile, in the county in which the juvenile resides.

(d) Summons may be issued in any county of this state in which the defendant may be found.

(e)

(1) Upon a default by the defendant, the court shall grant a finding of paternity and shall establish a child support order based on an application in accordance with the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure and the family support chart.

(2) The court’s granting of a default paternity judgement shall be based on the presumed mother’s affidavit of facts in which the presumed mother names the defendant as the father of her child and states the defendant’s access during the probable period of conception.

(f)

(1)

(A) The court where the final decree of paternity is rendered shall retain jurisdiction of all matters following the entry of the decree.

(B)

(i) If more than six (6) months subsequent to the final adjudication, however, each of the parties to the action has established a residence in a county of another chancery district within the state, one (1) or both of the parties may petition the court which entered the final adjudication to request that the case be transferred to another county.

(ii) The case shall not be transferred absent a showing that the best interest of the parties justifies the transfer.

(iii) If a justification for transfer of the case has been made, there shall be an initial presumption for transfer of the case to the county of residence of the physical custodian of the child.

(2) If the court which entered the final adjudication agrees to transfer the case to another chancery district, upon proper motion and affidavit and notice and payment of a refiling fee, the court shall enter an order transferring the case and the refiling fee and charging the clerk of the court to transmit forthwith certified copies of all records pertaining to the case to the clerk of the court in the chancery district where the case is being transferred.

(3) An affidavit shall accompany the motion to transfer and recite that the parent or parents, the physical custodian, and the Office of Child Support Enforcement, as appropriate, have been notified in writing that a request has been made to transfer the case to another chancery district.

(4) Notification pursuant to this section must inform each recipient that any objection must be filed within twenty (20) days from the date of receipt of the affidavit and motion for transfer.

(5) The chancery clerk receiving a transferred case shall, within fourteen (14) days of receipt, set up a case file, docket the case, and afford the case full faith and credit as if the case had originated in that judicial district.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-102.

Temporary orders – Administrative orders for paternity testing.

(a) If the child is not born when the accused appears before the chancery court or chancellor, the court may hear evidence and may make temporary orders and findings pending the birth of the child.

(b)

(1) If the parentage of a child has not been established the Office of Child Support Enforcement shall send a notice to the putative father, or mother, as appropriate, that he or she is a biological parent of the child. The notice shall inform the parties that the putative father and the mother of the child may sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity and that any party may request that scientifically accepted paternity testing be conducted to assist in determining the identities of the child’s parents.

(2) In all cases brought pursuant to Title IV-D of the federal Social Security Act, upon sworn statement of the mother, putative father, or the Office of Child Support Enforcement alleging paternity, the Office of Child Support Enforcement shall issue an administrative order for paternity testing which requires the mother, putative father, and minor child to submit themselves for paternity testing.

(A) The Office of Child Support Enforcement shall cause a copy of the administrative order for paternity testing to be served on the mother and putative father.

(B) Paternity testing accomplished pursuant to an administrative order shall be conducted pursuant to the guidelines and procedures set out in § 9-10-108.

(C) Any party to an administrative order for paternity testing may object to the administrative order within twenty (20) days after receiving the order and request an administrative hearing to determine if paternity testing under the administrative order should be conducted by the Office of Child Support Enforcement.

(3)

(A) The request for paternity testing shall be accompanied by an affidavit alleging paternity, and setting forth facts establishing a reasonable possibility of the requisite sexual contact between the mother and putative father; or

(B) An affidavit denying paternity, and setting forth facts establishing a reasonable possibility of the nonexistence of sexual contact between the mother and putative father.

(4)

(A) The Office of Child Support Enforcement shall initially pay the costs of administrative paternity testing, but those costs shall be assessed against the putative father if paternity is established or against the applicant for services if the putative father is excluded as the biological father.

(B) Recovery by the Office of Child Support Enforcement through all available processes shall be initiated, including income withholding, when appropriate.

(5) Any party who objects to the results of such paternity testing may request additional testing upon proper notice and advance payment for retesting, and the Office of Child Support Enforcement shall assist the contestant in obtaining such additional testing as may be requested.

(6) If the results of paternity testing establish a ninety-five-percent or more probability of inclusion that the putative father is the biological father of the child, then the Office of Child Support Enforcement may file a complaint for paternity and child support in the chancery court or juvenile division thereof, as appropriate.

(c) Any paternity testing results obtained pursuant to an administrative order for paternity testing shall be admissible into evidence in any chancery court or juvenile court for the proposes of adjudicating paternity, as provided by § 9-10-108.

(d) If the results of paternity testing exclude an alleged parent from being the biological parent of the child, the Office of Child Support Enforcement shall issue an administrative determination that declares that the excluded person is not a parent of the child.

(e) If the mother should die before the final order, the action may be revived in the name of the child, and the mother’s testimony at the temporary hearing may be introduced in the final hearing.

(f) Upon motion by a party, the chancery court shall issue a temporary child support order in accordance with this Code, the guidelines for child support, and the family support chart, when paternity is disputed and a judicial or administrative determination of paternity is pending, if there is clear and convincing genetic evidence of paternity.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-103.

Suit to determine paternity of illegitimate child.
Petitions for paternity establishment may be filed by:

(1) A biological mother;

(2) A putative father;

(3) A person for whom paternity is not presumed or established by court order; or

(4) The Office of Child Support Enforcement of the Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-104.

Trial by court or chancellor.
When the case is ready for trial, if the accused denies being the father of the child, the chancery court or chancellor shall hear the evidence and decide the case as other issues at law.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-105.
[Repealed.]
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-106.
[Repealed.]
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-107.

Paternity test.

(a)

(1) Upon motion of either party in a paternity action, the trial court shall order that the putative father, mother, and child submit to scientific testing for paternity, which may include deoxyribonucleic acid testing, to determine whether or not the putative father can be excluded as being the biological father of the child and to establish the probability of paternity if the testing does not exclude the putative father.

(2)

(A) Upon motion of either party in a paternity action, when the mother is deceased or unavailable, the trial court shall order that the putative father and child submit to scientific testing for paternity, which may include deoxyribonucleic acid typing, to determine whether or not the putative father can be excluded as being the biological father of the child and to establish the probability of paternity if the testing does not exclude the putative father.

(B) If a maternal relative is available and willing to participate in paternity testing, the trial court shall include such maternal relative within its order for paternity testing.

(3)

(A) Upon motion of either party in a paternity action, when the father is deceased or unavailable, the trial court shall order that the mother and child submit to scientific testing for paternity, which may include deoxyribonucleic acid typing, to determine whether or not the putative father can be excluded as being the biological father of the child and to establish the probability of paternity if the testing does not exclude the putative father.

(B) If a paternal relative is available and willing to participate in paternity testing, the trial court shall include such paternal relative within its order for paternity testing.

(4) The tests shall be made by a duly qualified expert or experts to be appointed by the court.

(5)

(A) A written report of the test results prepared by the duly qualified expert conducting the test, or by a duly qualified expert under whose supervision or direction the test and analysis have been performed, certified by an affidavit duly subscribed and sworn to by him or her before a notary public, may be introduced in evidence in paternity actions without calling the expert as a witness unless a motion challenging the test procedures or results has been filed within thirty (30) days of the trial on the complaint and bond is posted in an amount sufficient to cover the costs of the duly qualified expert to appear and testify.

(B)

(i) If contested, documentation of the chain of custody of samples taken from test subjects in paternity testing shall be verified by affidavit of one (1) person witnessing the procedure or extraction, packaging, and mailing of said samples and by one (1) person signing for said samples at the place where same are subject to the testing procedure.

(ii) Submission of the affidavits along with the submission of the test results shall be competent evidence to establish the chain of custody of these specimens.

(6)

(A) If the results of the paternity tests establish a ninety-five percent (95%) or more probability of inclusion that the putative father is the biological father of the child, after corroborating testimony of the mother in regard to access during the probable period of conception, such shall constitute a prima facie case of establishment of paternity, and the burden of proof shall shift to the putative father to rebut such proof.

(B) If the results of the paternity tests conducted pursuant to subdivision (a)(2) of this section establish a ninety-five percent (95%) or more probability of inclusion that the putative father is the biological father of the child, after corroborating testimony concerning the conception, birth, and history of the child, such shall constitute a prima facie case of establishment of paternity, and the burden of proof shall shift to the putative father to rebut such proof.

(7) Whenever the court orders scientific testing for paternity and one (1) of the parties refuses to submit to the testing, that fact shall be disclosed upon the trial and may be considered civil contempt of court.

(8) The costs of the scientific testing for paternity and witness fees shall be taxed by the court as other costs in the case.

(9) Whenever it shall be relevant to the prosecution or the defense in a paternity action, scientific testing for paternity which excludes third parties as the biological father of the child may be introduced under the same requirements as set out in this section.

(b) The appearance of the name of the father, with his consent, on the certificate of birth, the social security account number of the alleged father filed, with his consent, with the Division of Vital Records of the Department of Health of this state pursuant to § 20-18-407, a certified copy of such certificate or records, on which the name of the alleged father was entered with his consent, from the vital records department of another state, or the registration of the father, with his consent, in the putative father registry of this state pursuant to § 20-18-702 shall constitute a prima facie case of establishment of paternity, and the burden of proof shall shift to the putative father to rebut such in a proceeding for paternity establishment.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-108.

Child support following finding of paternity.

(a)

(1) Subsequent to the execution of an acknowledgment of paternity by the father and mother of a child pursuant to § 20-18-408 or § 20-18-409, or a similar acknowledgment executed during the child’s minority, or subsequent to a finding by the court that the putative father in a paternity action is the father of the child, the court shall follow the same guidelines, procedures, and requirements as set forth in the laws of this state applicable to child support orders and judgments entered by the chancery court as if it were a case involving a child born of a marriage in awarding custody, visitation, setting amounts of support, costs, and attorney’s fees, and directing payments through the clerk of the court, or through the Arkansas child support clearinghouse if the case was brought pursuant to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. All child support payments paid by income withholding shall be subject to the provisions set forth in § 9-14-801 et seq.

(2) The court may provide for the payment of support beyond the eighteenth birthday of the child to address the educational needs of a child whose eighteenth birthday falls prior to graduation from high school so long as such support is conditional on the child remaining in school.

(3) The court may also provide for the continuation of support for an individual with a disability which affects the ability of the individual to live independently from the custodial parent.

(b)

(1)

(A) All orders directing payments through the registry of the court or through the Arkansas child support clearinghouse shall set forth a fee to be paid by the noncustodial parent or obligated spouse in the amount of thirty-six dollars ($36.00) per year.

(B) The fee shall be collected from the noncustodial parent or obligated spouse at the time of the first support payment and during the anniversary month of the entry of the order each year thereafter, or nine dollars ($9.00) per quarter at the option of the obligated parent, until no children remain minor and the support obligation is extinguished and any arrears are completely satisfied.

(2) The clerk, upon direction from the court and as an alternative to collecting the annual fee during the anniversary month each year after entry of the order, may prorate the first fee collected at the time of the first payment of support under the order to the number of months remaining in the calendar year and thereafter collect all fees as provided in this subsection during the month of January of each year.

(3) Payments made for this fee shall be made on an annual basis in the form of a check or money order payable to the clerk of the court or other such legal tender which the clerk may accept. This fee payment shall be separate and apart from the support payment, and under no circumstances shall the support payment be reduced to fulfill the payment of this fee.

(4) Upon the nonpayment of the annual fee by the noncustodial parent within ninety (90) days, the clerk may notify the payor under the order of income withholding for child support who shall withhold the fee in addition to any support and remit such to the clerk.

(5) All moneys collected by the clerk as a fee as provided in this subsection shall be used by the clerk’s office to offset administrative costs as a result of this subchapter. Until all necessary data processing equipment has been acquired, at least twenty percent (20%) of the moneys collected annually shall be used to purchase, maintain, and operate an automated data system for use in administering the requirements of this subchapter. The acquisition and update of software for the automated data system shall be a permitted use of these funds. All fees collected under this subsection shall be paid into the county treasury to the credit of the fund to be known as the “Support Collection Costs Fund”. Moneys deposited in this fund shall be appropriated and expended for the uses designated in this subdivision (b)(5) by the quorum court at the direction of the clerk of the court.

(c) The clerk of the court shall maintain accurate records of all support orders and payments under this section.

(d) The clerk may accept the support payment in any form of cash or commercial paper, including personal checks, and may require that the custodial parent or nonobligated spouse be named as payee thereon.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-109.

Judgment for lying-in expenses – Commitment on failure to pay.

(a) If it is found by the court that the accused is the father of the child, the court shall render judgment against him for the lying-in expenses in favor of the mother, person, or agency incurring the lying-in expenses, if claimed.

(b) If the lying-in expenses are not paid upon the rendition of the judgment, together with all costs which may be adjudged against him in the case, then the court shall have the power to commit the accused person to jail until the lying-in expenses are paid, with all costs.

(c)

(1) Bills and invoices for pregnancy and childbirth expenses and paternity testing are admissible as evidence in the chancery court or juvenile division thereof without third-party foundation testimony if such bills or invoices are regular on their face.

(2) Such bills or invoices shall constitute prima facie evidence of amounts incurred for such services or for testing on behalf of the child.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-110.

Judgment for child support – Bond.

(a) If it is found by the chancery court that the accused is the father of the child and, if claimed by the mother, the chancery court or chancellor shall give judgment for a monthly sum of not less than ten dollars ($10.00) per month for every month from the birth of the child until the child attains the age of eighteen (18) years.

(b)

(1) The court shall further order that the father enter into bond to the State of Arkansas in the penal sum of five hundred dollars ($500), with good and sufficient security.

(2) The bond shall be void if the person or his executors or administrators indemnify each county in this state from all costs and expenses for the maintenance or otherwise of the child while under the age of eighteen (18) years, and for the payment of the monthly payments that may be adjudged as aforesaid.

(3) Bonds shall be approved by the chancellor and an entry made on the record of the conditions and the securities thereon.

(c) If the person refuses or neglects to enter into bond with security as above provided, the chancellor shall commit him to the jail of the county, there to remain until he complies with the order or until he is otherwise discharged according to law.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-111.

Income withholding – Delinquent noncustodial parent.

(a)

(1) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, all persons under court order on August 1, 1985, to pay support who become delinquent thereunder in an amount equal to the total court-ordered support payable for thirty (30) days shall be subject to income withholding.

(2)

(A) In all orders which provide for the payment of money for the support of any child, the court shall include a provision directing a payor to deduct from money, income, or periodic earnings due the noncustodial parent an amount which is sufficient to meet the periodic child support payments imposed by the court, plus an additional amount of not less than ten percent (10%) of the periodic child support payment to be applied toward liquidation of any accrued arrearage due under the order.

(B) The use of income withholding does not constitute an election of remedies and does not preclude the use of other enforcement remedies.

(b)

(1) Beginning October 1, 1989, in all cases brought pursuant to Title IV-D, the support orders issued or modified shall include a provision for immediate implementation of income withholding, absent a finding of good cause not to require immediate income withholding or a written agreement of the parties incorporated in the order setting forth an alternative agreement. Otherwise, it shall become effective under subsection (a) of this section following the procedure set forth in subsection (c) of this section, or as provided in subsection (d) of this section.

(2) Beginning January 1, 1994, all support orders issued or modified shall include a provision for immediate implementation of income withholding absent a finding of good cause not to require immediate income withholding or a written agreement of the parties incorporated in the order setting forth an alternative agreement.

(3) In all non-Title IV-D cases brought prior to January 1, 1994, the support order may include a provision for immediate implementation of income withholding, absent a finding of good cause not to require immediate withholding, or a written agreement of the parties incorporated in the order setting forth an alternative agreement. The judge of each division shall determine if all support orders shall be subject to the provisions of this section and shall enter a standing order setting forth the treatment of non-Title IV-D cases in that division prior to January 1, 1994.

(c) In activating an order of income withholding which did not become effective immediately, the court shall follow the same procedures and requirements as set forth in the laws of this state applicable to child support orders and judgments entered by the chancery court.

(d) In cases brought pursuant to Title IV-D with support orders effective prior to October 1, 1989, income withholding may take effect immediately in any child support case at the request or upon the consent of the noncustodial parent.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-112.

Custody of illegitimate child born outside of marriage.

(a)When a child is born to an unmarried woman, legal custody of that child shall be in the woman giving birth to the child until the child reaches the age of eighteen (18) years unless a court of competent jurisdiction enters an order placing the child in the custody of another party.

(b) A biological father, provided he has established paternity in a court of competent jurisdiction, may petition the chancery court, or other court of competent jurisdiction, wherein the child resides, for custody of the child.

(c) The court may award custody to the biological father upon a showing that:

(1) He is a fit parent to raise the child;

(2) He has assumed his responsibilities toward the child by providing care, supervision, protection, and financial support for the child; and

(3) It is in the best interest of the child to award custody to the biological father.

(d) When in the best interest of a child, visitation shall be awarded in a way that assures the frequent and continuing contact of the child with the mother and the biological father.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-113.

Visitation rights of father.
When any chancery court in this state determines the paternity of a child and orders the father to make periodic payments for support of the child, the court may also grant reasonable visitation rights to the father and may issue such orders as may be necessary to enforce the visitation rights.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-114.

Modification of orders or judgments.

(a) The chancery court may at any time enlarge, diminish, or vacate any order or judgment in the proceedings under this section except in regard to the issue of paternity as justice may require and on such notice to the defendant as the court may prescribe.

(b) The court shall not set aside, alter, or modify any final decree, order, or judgment of paternity where paternity blood testing, genetic testing, or other scientific evidence was used to determine the adjudicated father as the biological father.

(c) Any signatory to a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity may rescind the acknowledgment by completing a form provided for that purpose and filing the form with the Division of Vital Records of the Department of Health:

(1) Prior to the date that an administrative or judicial proceeding, including a proceeding to establish a support order, is held relating to the child and the person executing the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is a party; or

(2) Within sixty (60) days of executing the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, whichever date occurs first.

(d)

(1) Beyond the sixty-day period or other limitation set forth in subsection (c) of this section, a person may challenge a paternity establishment pursuant to a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or an order based on an acknowledgment of paternity only upon an allegation of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.

(2) The burden of proof shall be upon the person challenging the establishment of paternity.

(e)

(1)

(A) When any man has been adjudicated to be the father of a child or is deemed to be the father of a child pursuant to an acknowledgment of paternity without the benefit of scientific testing for paternity and as a result was ordered to pay child support, he shall be entitled to one (1) paternity test, pursuant to § 9-10-108, at any time during the period of time that he is required to pay child support upon the filing of a motion challenging the adjudication or acknowledgment of paternity in a court of competent jurisdiction.

(B) If an acknowledgment of paternity was the basis for the order of support, the motion must comply with the requirements of subsection (d) of this section.

(2) The duty to pay child support and other legal obligations shall not be suspended while the motion is pending except for good cause shown, which shall be recited in the court’s order.

(f)

(1) If the test administered under subdivision (e)(1)(A) of this section excludes the adjudicated father or man deemed to be the father pursuant to an acknowledgment of paternity as the biological father of the child and the court so finds, the court shall set aside the previous finding or establishment of paternity and relieve him of any future obligation of support as of the date of the finding.

(2) If the name of the adjudicated father or man deemed to be the father pursuant to an acknowledgment of paternity appears on the birth certificate of the child, the court shall issue an order requiring the birth certificate to be amended to delete the name of the father.

(g) If the test administered under subdivision (e)(1)(A) of this section confirms that the adjudicated father or man deemed to be the father pursuant to an acknowledgment of paternity is the biological father of the child, the court shall enter an order adjudicating paternity and setting child support in accordance with §9-10-109, the guidelines for child support, and the family support chart.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-115.

Chancellor’s fees.

(a) The chancellor shall be allowed such fees in all cases of paternity as were allowed to justices of the peace under the law when justices of the peace had jurisdiction of paternity cases.

(b) The other officers shall be allowed such fees as are by law allowed to sheriffs, coroners, constables, and clerks in criminal cases.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-116.

Appeals.
Appeals from chancery decisions in paternity cases shall be in the same manner as now provided by law for appeals from the chancery courts in equity cases.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-117.
[Superseded.]
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-118.

Revival of judgment.
The judgment may be revived against the executor or administrator of the person against whom the judgment was rendered.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-119.

Effect of acknowledgment of paternity.

(a) A man is the father of a child for all intents and purposes if he and the mother execute an acknowledgment of paternity of the child pursuant to § 20-18-408 or § 20-18-409, or a similar acknowledgment executed during the child’s minority.

(b)

(1) Acknowledgments of paternity shall by operation of law constitute a conclusive finding of paternity, subject to the modification of orders or judgments under § 9-10-115, and shall be recognized by the chancery courts and juvenile divisions thereof as creating a parent and child relationship between father and child.

(2) Such acknowledgments of paternity shall also be recognized as forming the basis for establishment and enforcement of a child support or visitation order without a further proceeding to establish paternity.

(c) The Arkansas Department of Health shall offer voluntary paternity establishment services in all of its offices throughout the state. The Department of Health shall coordinate such services with the Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement.

(d) Upon submission of the acknowledgment of paternity to the Division of Vital Records of the Department of Health, the State Registrar of Vital Records shall accordingly establish a new or amended certificate of birth reflecting the name of the father as recited in the acknowledgment of paternity.

(e) The Administrator of the Office of Child Support Enforcement and the hospital, birthing center, certified nurse practitioner, or licensed midwife delivering the child shall enter into cooperative agreements to compensate at a rate not to exceed twenty dollars ($20.00) for each acknowledgment of paternity forwarded by the hospital, birthing center, certified nurse practitioner, or licensed midwife to the Office of Child Support Enforcement.
Title 9, SubTitle 2, Ch. 10, SubCh. 1, §9-10-120.