In Arizona, establishing paternity is the process involved in determining who the biological father of a child is. When a couple is unmarried, establishing paternity is a necessary step for the father to be able to assert rights as a parent. Unless the person proves that he or she is a child’s biological parent or acknowledges their paternity of the child, they will not be able to seek rights to visitation or child custody. The mother can decide to withhold visits or to allow them when the other parent has not established paternity.
In this article, we discuss the following topics below:
- What is the Purpose of Establishing Paternity?
- Paternity and Child Support
- How is Paternity Established in Arizona?
- Who can File for Paternity?
- Parent’s Rights after Paternity is Established
When a married couple has a child, there is a legal presumption that the husband or same-sex spouse is the parent of the child. By contrast, there is no presumption of fatherhood for the man or same sex spouse. This can lead to unpredictability that can be harmful to all who are involved. An unmarried father or same-sex partner who wants to have visitation with the child may need to get help from an experienced family law attorney at the Cantor Law Group to establish paternity and to seek his visitation and custody rights. Likewise, an unmarried mother will have to establish the paternity of her child before she will be able to get child support orders issued and should seek help from a lawyer.
What is the Purpose of Establishing Paternity?
Establishing the paternity of a child is important for unmarried mothers, unmarried fathers and same sex partners. Before you can get some rights to participate in legal decision-making for your child in regards to his or her education, religious upbringing, and medical care, you must first establish that you are your child’s parent. Establishing your paternity is likewise important as an unmarried father or same sex partner if you want to have regular visitation with your child.
If you are a mother and are unmarried, and you want to receive child support, you must first establish the child’s paternity. The state cannot issue a child support order against an unmarried parent unless paternity has be established for the child. Establishing paternity must always happen before child custody and child support proceedings when the parents are unmarried. It can be established through a voluntary acknowledgment or by the court finding that the unmarried father is the biological father of the child through DNA evidence.
Men and women both have the right to petition for paternity to be established. A father or same sex partner does not have to get the permission of the mother to petition the court. An unmarried mother can also petition the court to establish paternity even if the father or same sex partner is not cooperative. Once paternity has been established, a separate petition will need to be filed for visitation orders.
Paternity Establishment and Child Support
Unmarried mothers can secure child support orders after the paternity is established. Getting a DNA test can establish a father’s support obligation with clear evidence. The establishment of paternity also allows the unmarried father or same sex partner their rights to share in the custody, care, and control of his child. Certified and approved laboratories are used to conduct DNA genetic testing for the establishment of paternity. Putative fathers should not simply rely on the mother’s word of the child’s parentage but should instead confirm their status with scientific evidence through DNA testing.
How is Paternity Established in Arizona?
Under A.R.S. § 25-814, there are three ways that paternity can be established in Arizona, including the following:
- Paternity may be presumed;
- Paternity may be voluntarily acknowledged; or
- Paternity may be adjudicated through the court.
Paternity may be presumed in five different ways, including the following:
- The man or woman was married to the child’s mother during the 10 months before the child was born;
- The child was born within 10 months after a marriage ended by divorce, legal separation, death, or annulment;
- DNA testing shows paternity at a probability of 95% or higher;
- The unmarried father or same sex partner signs the child’s birth certificate;
- The unmarried father or same sex partner and mother sign an acknowledgment of paternity.
These presumptions can be rebutted with a showing of clear and convincing evidence. This means that you can challenge the presumption that you are the father of a child in court.
Under A.R.S. § 25-812, unmarried parents are allowed to establish the paternity of a child by both of them signing a written statement acknowledging paternity. The acknowledgment of paternity form can then be filed with the Department of Health & Human Services, the court, and the Department of Economic Security. A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity can be used as evidence to rebut the presumption that the husband or same sex spouse of the mother is the parent of the wife’s child. Before the parents sign an acknowledgment of paternity, they should be given information about the legal consequences of signing it and the alternatives that are available to them.
Putative fathers should always ask for a DNA test before they agree to sign an acknowledgment of paternity to make certain that he truly is the child’s biological father. If the mother does not consent, the father can file a petition with the court to obtain a court order for the DNA testing to occur.
Who can File a Petition for Paternity?
Under A.R.S. § 25-806, paternity can be established by filing a petition with the court in order to reach a legal determination of paternity. Either the father, same sex partner, or the mother can file a petition to adjudicate that the father or same sex partner is the legal parent of the child. If the other party fails to respond, the court can enter an order to establish the paternity. Under A.R.S. § 25-803, the following parties are able to file a petition with the court to establish a child’s paternity:
- Same Sex Spouse/Partner
- Conservator or guardian of the child
- Public welfare agency in the county where the child lives
- The state
Under A.R.S. § 25-804, you can file a petition with the court while the mother is still pregnant or after she has given birth. To establish the duty to pay child support, the petition must be filed before the child turns 18. You can still file a petition after a child becomes an adult to establish his or her rights to inheritance, however.
It is important for you to respond to a petition for paternity that has been filed against you. If you do not respond, the judge can enter a default judgment and order you to pay child support. If you fail to show up to take a DNA test that was ordered by the court, the judge can similarly enter a default judgment against you underA.R.S. § 25-813. Under A.R.S. § 25-809, the court will then enter a child support order and may also issue a retroactive order for support going back three years. If the court finds good cause to do so, the retroactive order can go back for longer than three years.
Establishing Parent’s Rights After Paternity has Been Established
A finding that you are the parent of your child does not automatically initiate custody and father’s parenting time proceedings. While you might be able to reach an informal agreement with your child’s mother, an informal agreement will not protect you if a dispute or conflict arises. To get a legally enforceable order, you will need to file a petition in court for a determination of legal decision-making authority and parenting time.
After you file a petition for a determination of legal decision-making authority and parenting time, you can try to negotiate a formal agreement with the other parent. If you are unable to reach an agreement, you can ask the court to make the decision for you. A formal agreement that you reach can be filed with the court and will become the court’s order as long as it is determined to be fair and conscionable. If the court makes the decision, the court’s orders will also be enforceable on both you and your child’s other parent.
Getting an order through the court process can help you to make certain that you can enjoy a good relationship with your child. A court order can also keep the other parent from moving more than 100 miles away with your child without your consent or a court’s order.
Get help from the Cantor Law Group
If you need to establish the paternity of your child, you may benefit from seeking help from the family law attorneys at the Cantor Law Group. We can help you with filing the petitions that you might need so that you can establish paternity and your rights. Speak with our attorneys today for a free consultation by calling 602-254-8880 or filling out the contact form below.