Establishing paternity is the process of legally determining the father of a child. To protect your rights as the biological father in Arizona, an unmarried father must establish paternity.
Unmarried mothers, fathers, and same-sex partners should establish paternity. Married couples in Arizona are presumed to be the biological parents of a child and do not need to formally establish or acknowledge paternity. If you are served with a petition and fail to respond, the court could enter a default judgment establishing your paternity and establishing child support orders.
Both women and men have the right to petition for the establishment of paternity. Fathers do not need the permission of the mother to petition the court to establish paternity. Likewise, an unmarried mother can petition the court to establish paternity even if the father is being uncooperative.
For unmarried and same-sex parents, establishing paternity is important to protect two basic rights you have as a parent (1) to participate in the legal decision-making process of your child and (2) to enforce a dependable parenting time or visitation schedule.
First, legal decision-making means that you, as a parent, have rights to make legal decisions on behalf of a minor child. Common issues associated with legal decision-making for your child include decisions about education, religious practices, medical care, and issues of personal care. To participate in legal decision-making for your child, you must first establish that you are your child’s parent.
Second, establishing paternity is important to protect your rights for a regular and dependable visitation schedule with your child. Without establishing paternity, a court is unable to make a parenting time order. Without the parenting time order, a mother can withhold visits and law enforcement cannot intervene. You cannot enforce visits with your child without first legally establishing your rights as a parent.
ARS Section 25-814 permits a party to establish paternity in three ways:
1) A Person can be presumed to be the parent. This occurs when
the parties were married within 10 months before the child’s birthday
a genetic test shows a 95% or greater percent probability of paternity
the birth certificate is signed by the parties if they are unmarried (including same-sex parties)
the parties sign an acknowledgment of paternity which is notarized or witnessed (including same-sex parties)
Note: The presumption of paternity discussed above (ARS Section 25-814(A)) can be overcome. If there is an issue regarding who the biological father is, it is important to obtain legal representation as soon as possible. There are many consequences affecting your rights, visitations, and financial and child support obligations.
2) Paternity may be acknowledged voluntarily by both parties signing a written consent.
3) A court can adjudicate and issue a decree establishing paternity. If a parent was unmarried and has not voluntarily had paternity established, they need to file and serve a petition to establish paternity. Simonds Law Group, PLLC uses custom petitions for its clients that also include a request for legal decision making, parenting time, and child support. There is a fill-in-the-blank form titled “Petition for Court Order for Paternity and Legal Decision-Making (Custody), Parenting Time, Child Support, and/or Vital Records” on the Arizona Judicial Branch website under form number DRP11F. A judge will review the documents and approve the petition unless there is a contest.
If you wish to receive child support, the child’s paternity must first be established. The state will not issue a child support order against unmarried parents unless paternity has been established. Establishing paternity must occur before child support issues can be presented.
In some cases, it is appropriate to address issues of child support and paternity simultaneously. The documents establishing paternity can also include orders to establish child support and legal decision making and even requesting parenting time. Please contact us about our strategy to establish your specific paternity and child support issues most efficiently and effectively.
If you have questions or need assistance setting-up paternity, Simonds Law Group, PLLC is here to help. Clients will first set up a consult with an attorney at our firm. We review your case and determine if there is either an acknowledgment or presumption of paternity. Generally, clients seeking assistance with paternity require a court to adjudicate them the legal parent. We discuss the filing and service of a petition to establish paternity. At the same time, we try and resolve issues concerning legal decision-making, parenting time, and child support to be as efficient and effective as possible.
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