Arkansas man (Father) and woman (Mother) obtain marriage license and have a church wedding. For whatever the reason, the minister doesn’t sign the license and it is not filed with the county.
Mother and Father have Baby. Mother and Father break up eight years after wedding.
Mother files action to establish paternity of Baby.
Father ignores paternity case. Court rules that Father is the father of Baby and orders visitation and child support.
A few months later, the Mother marries another man, without obtaining a divorce from the Father of Baby.
Mother and her new Husband pursue stepparent adoption of Baby by Husband.
Father challenges adoption.
The trial court denies Father’s challenge, concluding that Father and Mother were never legally married because the marriage license was not filed and that Father had abandoned Baby by not paying support.
The intermediate appellate court reversed the adoption, finding that Father and Mother had been legally married, despite the licensing deficiency.
The Arkansas Supreme Court held that the default trial court judgment ruling that Mother and Father had never been married was binding, as well as the ruling determining that Father is the Father of Baby. The stepparent adoption was upheld.
Other states have come out differently on this issue.