Establishing Paternity in Arizona
Establishing paternity in Arizona involves the legal process of identifying the father of a child, particularly in couples who are unmarried, or in people who may be married, but not to each other. This legal process helps to establish the parental rights a father may have regarding his biological children. Unfortunately, without any legal proof that a man is the father of a child, there are no legal precedents that allow parental decision-making rights or parental time. The sole legal decision-making parent will remain the mother, who may deny the right to any type of connection between the man and the child.
Similar rules and policies apply to same-sex couples as well. When a same-sex couple is legally married and one has a child, both partners are presumed to be the parents. Establishing the paternity for mothers, fathers, and same-sex couples is vital not only for the legal care of the child at birth, but the legal care of the child as they age.
For those wishing to establish paternity, gain decision-making rights, and negotiate parenting time, it is crucial to consult with expert paternity attorneys in Arizona to help navigate the process.
How to Establish Paternity in Arizona
Establishing paternity in Arizona can be accomplished in a few different ways. Ideally, both parents can agree to paternity and file the necessary paperwork jointly. However, there may be instances where paternity must be accomplished via a legal route.
Establishing paternity may be accomplished if:
- It is presumed
- It is voluntarily acknowledged
- It is adjudicated through the court system
Each of these situations is approached in a different way. The most common and simplest way to establish paternity is to sign the birth certificate, which establishes a presumption of paternity. Paternity can also be accomplished by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital or birth center, filling out a Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity at the Department of Child Safety Services, by submitting the Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity form to a court of law, or submitting a Petition of Paternity.
So, why are there so many ways to establish paternity in Arizona? Exploring this complex scenario can empower you to protect your rights.
Why Is Establishing Paternity in Arizona Important?
In 1959, the UN Declared that children have a right to know and be cared for by both parents. In order to provide this right to children, parents have both an obligation and a right to do what is in the child’s best interest. Fulfilling this right requires the parent’s ability to act as a legal decision-maker and to have adequate parenting time. Both aspects of parenting are legally protected for the birth mother and the father after paternity is established.
Through the establishment of paternity, a child also gains valuable resources as they continue to grow. Paternity affords benefits to the child via the parents in the form of social security, health and life insurance, survivor benefits, and even vital medical history. Paternity also ensures the child’s legal ability to receive child support and other payments.
For the potential father, it is important to understand that following the official establishment of paternity, he will likely be liable for child support. In a relationship, it can be easy to trust the instincts and words of your partner. However, if you suspect that there may be a chance you are not the father, it is in your best interest to seek a paternity test as financial obligations will be assigned to you if you are the presumed parent. An establishment of paternity protects not only the rights of the father to the child, but can also protect a person from someone else’s financial obligation.
The Presumption of Paternity in Arizona
According to ARS 25-814, a man is presumed to be the father if:
- He and the mother were married within the ten months preceding the birth
- The child was born within ten months of a marriage that ends by death, annulment, divorce, or separation
- Testing affirms the probability of paternity within 95%
- A birth certificate is signed by both the mother and father (or same-sex partner)
- A notarized or witnessed statement is signed by both parents acknowledging paternity
Although the above presumptions are made automatically, there are legal routes to dispute the paternity for both the presumed father and anyone else who may want to challenge the presumption. If evidence is presented that challenges the presumption of paternity, a court can adjudicate the paternity of the child, superseding the presumption. Before taking this route, it is important to discuss this option with an attorney to understand the procedures and processes.
Does Signing a Birth Certificate Establish Paternity in Arizona?
In short, yes. Signing a birth certificate can establish paternity covered under the above presumptions. However, as stated, these presumptions can be challenged in court. It is important to keep in mind that birth certificates can be issued rather quickly, and if the father is unavailable to sign at the time of issuance, it could prevent the establishment of paternity. In this case, a father will need to seek other avenues.
Without the father’s signature on the birth certificate, all parental rights immediately default to the mother. The father loses all rights until paternity is established.
Who Can File A Petition for Paternity in Arizona?
In Arizona, you can petition for paternity through the family court system. The petition is a written, legal request for the establishment of paternity. According to A.R.S. 25-806, the father, mother, same-sex partner, conservator of the child, public welfare agencies, and the state can file a petition with a court to provide adjudication regarding the establishment of paternity. The petition process challenges the presumed paternity of a child in order to reestablish parental rights to the correct father. When the petition is filed, the party that is challenged must respond to a court order. If they fail to do so, the court reserves the right to enter an order of paternity.
You can file a petition for paternity in Arizona if either parent has any formal connections to the state of Arizona. These connections include living in the state at the time of the petition, living in the state with the child at any time, conception within the state of Arizona, or a birth certificate filed in Arizona.
In many cases, petitions are filed to precede a motion for child support and other neglected parental responsibilities. If a potential father fails to respond to the petition, the court may proceed with a ruling and order support without the respondent. At this point, they may be legally responsible for the financial obligation.
It is important to note that while the petition process is in process in some counties, parents are required to attend a parent education class entitled “Domestic Relations Education on Children’s Issues.” Courts that require this class may ask for this step to be completed prior to mediation and within 45 days of filing the petition.
How Long Does a Father Have to Establish Paternity in Arizona?
There are several Arizona statutes that apply here, and some exceptions have been made by the Supreme Court of Arizona. These statutes generally protect the mother and the state and set a precedent for the statute of limitations. However, a Petition for Paternity may be filed at any time before the child reaches the age of 18.
Petitions for paternity are considered retroactive for the three preceding years. This means fathers who wish to challenge paternity must do so before the child reaches the age of 18. A petition can be filed beginning any time during a mother’s pregnancy. In cases where a legal heir must be established, paternity can be determined after a child’s 18th birthday, but that is a special circumstance.
Why Do Parenting Plans Matter?
The matter of paternity is particularly important for couples who may face marital or relationship strife, including annulments, divorces, and separations. When couples face these situations and have children, it is important to establish a parenting plan with the courts as a part of the legal separation or divorce process. A parenting plan helps determine primary decision-making rights, parenting time, and child support. While two parents may agree on these ahead of time, the final ruling must be made by the court. At this time, the ruling becomes binding. Without the establishment of paternity, decision-making and parenting default to the mother.
When the Arizona court determines who will have primary parenting time, it considers who the child wants to live with, how the children interact with each parent, any health limitations, the success of the child in school, and any domestic situations that may be unhealthy for the further development of the child. Unfortunately, even if the mother is deemed unable to properly care for the child, if paternity is not established, the child could be relocated to an extended family member or even the state system. If a father wants to protect the child from these situations, it is important to establish paternity in advance. He can then maintain the rights to care for and provide for the child.
If parents are unable to reach an agreement in cases involving Parenting Plans, it is even more important that paternity is established, as the court will have the final decision. If there has been a petition for paternity and no response, that does not mean the question of paternity is ignored. The court will still make the ultimate decision and can hold a non-responding person accountable for child custody or child support in the Parenting Plan. This occurs if the court determines there is sufficient evidence for paternity with a test.
When there is a Parenting Plan in place, and one parent wants to relocate to a location over 100 miles away, notice must be given to the other parent before the move occurs. With proper paternity and no Parenting Plan, the decision-maker is able to relocate with notice. When Parenting Plans exist, the parent who is not relocating has the right to request a relocation hearing prior to the actual move.
Once an order of paternity or parenting plan has been established, it is legally binding and must be followed by both parents. Without the correct establishment of paternity, there is not much a father can do to prevent responsibility from falling to the mother, whose connection to the child is indisputable.
What Does Paternity Establishment Protect?
It’s important to know that paternity protects the rights of the father. Without paternity, a father has no decision-making or parenting time rights. The assumption that if a father is in a relationship with the mother, these rights are presumed can be a mistake. It is important to be sure paternity is established at birth via one of the legal processes mentioned. If it is not, it is important to file a petition with family court to establish paternity as soon as possible, so your rights remain protected in the event that the relationship dissolves.
Finally, the establishment of paternity also protects the child or children involved. Children have the right to experience parenting time, legal input, and financial support from both parents. Establishing paternity ensures that both parents must do what is in the best interests of the child.
Is It Time to Establish Paternity in AZ?
The ultimate goal of any paternity case is to make sure that the child is protected, cared for, and has their own rights met via the acknowledgment and support of both parents. Forming relationships with your children is important to both parent and child as time moves forward. Make sure that time is valued and full of love.
Jonathan Roeder, Co-Founder of The Valley Law Group, is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.