FOX16.com

Fathers Rally for Rights at the Capitol

The Father's Rights Movement-Arkansas rallied at the State Capitol for the state's first Annual National Fatherless Day Rally.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Father's Rights Movement-Arkansas Facebook page is a long procession of fathers in custody battles across the state. Several of the pages members rallying at the State Capitol, a small group for the state's first Annual National Fatherless Day Rally.

"I just want to get my daughter home," Trent Reicks said following the rally.

Like other fathers on the Facebook page, Reicks would love to show you photos of his daughter.

"She's five months and 14 days old today. I've never seen a photo of her," he said.

Nor has he ever had the chance to meet her. He only learned she existed a month before her mother's due date in December. And according to Reicks, she decided to give their daughter up for adoption, without his input.

"I filed through the courthouse for custody and paternity. I registered with the putative father registry," Reicks said.

In Arkansas, unless the parents of a child are married, the father doesn't automatically have any paternal rights. Legal custody automatically goes to the mother.

"The father is not going to have any right to the child, until the court orders it otherwise," said Dustin Duke, Managing Attorney for the Arkansas Legal Aid Services Little Rock office.

According to Duke, a man and woman could have children together and live together for years without being married, and if the couple were to separate the father of the children wouldn't necessarily have any rights then, either.

"I think that would surprise people, in that instance, that they've lived together for years but something suddenly happens and they have no rights," Duke said.

From a policy perspective, Duke believes the law represents an effort at stability in the family unit. There's no doubt the mother is a parent of the child, where there could be doubt about the father. According to Duke, legislators would likely want to be sure at least one person was considered a responsible party for the child's well-being.

Duke added that a father would have to petition the court, and a judge would have to order custody to him. In cases of marriage, both parents have equal rights.

One resource for those who are unmarried, who believe they have children or may have children, can register with what is known as the Arkansas Putative Father Registry. The registry requires that the putative father be notified if the child is to be adopted. However, the putative registry doesn't assign any rights to the father otherwise.

"It's hard, I think about her everyday, but I don't even know what she looks like," Reicks said.

According to Reicks, the court allowed the adoption to continue. And State Representative Mark Lowery believes cases like this show the law doesn't always put the child's interests first.

"It's child abuse to take that child who has a loving parent and wants them, taking them away," said Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle).

Lowery plans to file legislation to change what's on the books, saying he will likely propose an interim study to get conversation started before the next session.

For Reicks, it likely won't make a difference.

"Even with a law change, my case has already gone through and these are the laws of the time," he said. "But I don't want anyone else to have to go through this."

So, he plans to fight for however long it takes to get the Father's Day gift he really wants.

"Sunday, Father's Day, lots of people will be going home to their kids. I'm going home to an empty nursery," he said.
Page: [[$index + 1]]
comments powered by Disqus

Weather Right Now

78°F
Light Rain
High: 84°F
Low: 77°F

7 day forecast