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After giving birth to a child, determining the father is one of the most important parts of the early parenting process, especially if the parents of the child are not married. Paternity must be established and proven for the father to secure his parenting rights. This usually involves the use of DNA testing. This process can be implemented by either the mother or father.
A mother who seeks to establish it will typically do so to obtain child support from the father. In the alternative, the unmarried father will typically seek it to establish his parental rights with the child or to refute paternity when denying the responsibility to pay child support. Given the formal nature of these proceedings, utilizing an experienced family law attorney is paramount to your rights in this case.
Paternity is a legal term that refers to the biological relationship between a father and his child. Depending on the relationship between the parents, paternity can either be implied or established. Traditionally, a DNA test has been used to establish paternity and a father’s relationship with his children by demonstrating their shared biological ancestry.
These tests, customarily conducted in a legal setting, can be used to prove paternity for a wide range of legal issues by showing an essential biological connection between father and child. Paternity testing can be used to corroborate or refute claims made by either side in cases when couples disagree over the man’s status as the child’s biological father. The relationship is used as a determining factor for any further testing or parenting decision-making rights.
Establishing paternity can be done in three distinct ways:
Depending on the relationship status of the parents of the child, the distinction of paternity can either be implied or established. Implied paternity, as the name suggests, is paternity that is assumed by circumstance. Established paternity, on the other hand, is paternity that is proven or reinforced by a specific test, legal measure, or agreed-upon acknowledgment.
Men in a marriage or long-term relationship with the mother of the child are assumed to be the father of the children had by their partners under four circumstances:
To establish legal paternity and prevent uncertainty even if the relationship status changes, both parents can complete a Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity form at a local Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) office. For parents who are not married either before or after the birth of the child, hospitals, birthing facilities, and the Arizona Bureau of Vital Records offer paternity establishment services through the Hospital Paternity Program (HPP). Fathers can also complete the Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity form, sign it, and submit it to the court or a government body.
In situations where paternity is in question, a DNA match can prove paternity. This constitutes taking a tissue or blood sample from both the presumed father and the child. Once compared, the amount of similar DNA present is used to determine paternity.
The Family Reforms Act of 1969 gave the court the authority to order blood tests in paternity situations where the paternity of a child is in question. This often occurs during litigation to establish child support, parenting time, or legal decision-making rights. The courts have the power to issue orders regarding DNA testing and the collection of blood samples from the mother, the child, and any man who is allegedly the father.
In some situations, one parent does not cooperate with the paternity process, leading to an escalation of efforts to prove a genetic link between a father and his child. For example, if a father is continuously unwilling to provide a DNA sample despite a court order, this could complicate the paternity process and sometimes lead to legal repercussions. Frequently, the Assistant Attorney General’s office will receive these cases and pursue harsher actions in order to facilitate cooperation. Paternity hearings are especially common during child support and child custody battles and are necessary for moving forward with the process of creating a child support plan or custody arrangement.
Depending on the type of paternity established, the time it takes for legal recognition of paternity can vary. For example, married fathers can be named fathers immediately after the child’s birth, or after signing the birth certificate, due to implied paternity. Submitting a petition for Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity is a similar process.
For more complex cases, such as those requiring DNA testing to verify paternity, the results of the test can take up to three days to be received by the court. Once delivered to the court, the evaluation of the results means there will be additional time necessary before the court reaches a final paternity decision. Once the decision is recorded, the man is immediately considered the father of the child.
In the past, it was often difficult for fathers to establish paternity if the process was blocked by the mother. However, laws pertaining to fathers’ rights have changed across the US. Arizona now acknowledges that it is in the child’s best interests to have significant, frequent, meaningful, and ongoing parenting time with both parents as a matter of public policy and in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary. Arizona Revised Statutes §25-103 provides this protection and advocates for fathers’ rights to parent their children, giving fathers more representation in a traditionally biased court. This statute ensures that fathers have the same legal entitlements to parenting time, legal decision-making, and child support as mothers, whether they are married or not.
When advocating for the father’s rights, paternity testing can be used as a way to solidify a father’s legal rights by proving that he is the father of the child in question. For example, if a mother wants to argue for full custody of a child after a divorce, claiming that the father of her child is not the actual father, paternity testing may be enforced by the court to either prove or deny these allegations. Similarly, in instances where a mother is seeking child support from a man that she claims is the father of her child, and he objects on the grounds that he is not the father, paternity testing can be used to officially determine the truth. Advances in both paternity testing and recognition of fathers’ rights in Arizona have made this possible, helping fathers receive equal rights regarding their involvement with their children.
Marriage continues to be one of the most significant determining factors when evaluating child custody, especially in situations where the child’s parents are unmarried. In Arizona, if a woman gives birth to a child outside of marriage, she automatically becomes their sole legal guardian until paternity is proven or the court chooses the custodial parent. The mother has the authority to make decisions for that child up until that point without consulting the biological father. However, at any point, the biological father may seek paternity testing to claim parental rights if not already agreed upon or legally recognized. Equal opportunity to seek decision-making and caregiving rights is guaranteed for both the mother and father of a child. However, paternity must be established before these rights are honored.
Without paternity in place, a child born to an unmarried mother may be placed for adoption, taken away from the father, or denied access to the father without consulting the father beforehand. In Arizona, paternity is required before creating a custody agreement, or before the mother may ask the biological father for child support. By law, in Arizona, both biological parents are then legally entitled to make decisions for their shared children, unless a predetermined custody agreement is in place.
Up until the child reaches the age of 18, unmarried parents may freely recognize a child without DNA testing. However, while determining child custody or child support payments in the absence of this recognition of paternity, paternity testing can be used to genetically confirm the parents of a child before payment plans and custody agreements are drafted. Unmarried parents can also fill out an Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity (AOP) form in any child support agency to voluntarily recognize paternity under Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-812. Any parent of a child born to unmarried individuals—including a legal guardian, father, or mother—can petition the court for DNA paternity testing to properly determine a guardian for the child.
When the court orders paternity testing, a mother does not have to submit any DNA to confirm her own genetic link to the child in question and reserves the right to refuse to test. However, she must allow the court to test the child. Fathers, on the other hand, have an obligation to submit to a DNA test and may face criminal charges for refusing. If a father refuses a court-ordered paternity test or if a mother refuses to present the child for a test, they may be held in contempt of court until submitting to the test.
Birth certificates are much like any formal legal document, and an acknowledgment of the information on that document is legally binding. When two parents sign a birth certificate after a child is born, they are legally recognized as that child’s parents. Paternity is then established for the father.
So, what if you are the biological father, but your partner refuses to put you on the birth certificate?
In instances where the birth certificate is not immediately signed, you may seek alternative forms of paternity verification, such as:
As mentioned, DNA testing is the best and most accurate way of verifying a paternal link between a father and his child if implied paternity is not an option. Genetic testing must establish a 95% chance of paternity in order to satisfy the burden of proof that legally declares a father the biological father of his children.
DNA testing can prove who is the child’s biological father and is also frequently used to eliminate prospective fathers. This is helpful in situations where the parental link is unverifiable by other means. In most cases, DCSS will cover the costs of DNA testing for the mother, father, and child unless a paternal link is established, wherein he will then pay the cost of the tests.
Depending on the status of the relationship between both parents, paternity can be established via paperwork. This may be an option if the child’s mother later regrets her decision to omit the father’s name from the birth certificate. The Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity form may be filled out and signed by both parents in person at a DCSS office.
In summary, signing a birth certificate is a surefire way to ensure paternity, so it is the means by which most parents establish the father’s legal status. However, this may not be an option for some fathers. Whether you are experiencing issues with your relationship or have made a simple mistake that led to a lack of paternity establishment early on, these options may help you establish your paternity rights. If the child’s mother is resistant to establishing paternity, you will need to request a court order for genetic testing, the most reliable form of paternity establishment. Filing paperwork with the DCSS takes cooperation and input from both parents, and voluntary genetic testing can be denied by the mother.
As a father, building a bond with your child is essential to creating the healthy, loving relationship you deserve, and that begins with recognizing your parental rights. If you are not the presumed father of your child or children, paternity must be verified by the state of Arizona to ensure you are granted parental rights. It is critical that you begin the process as soon as possible to prevent unfair child support, parenting time, and decision-making rulings. Protecting your parental rights is of the utmost importance for our family law firm, and our skilled attorneys can provide you with legal assistance through your paternity proceedings.
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