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Determining Fatherhood in Arizona

Posted On October 24, 2022 In Fathers' Rights

Under Arizona law, parents have equal rights and obligations for parenting and also enjoy equal parenting opportunities. Today’s courts acknowledge the importance of a father’s role as equal to that of the mother. When a man and woman are married, the courts consider him the presumptive father of the child with full parental rights. This applies only to legally married couples. Unfortunately, while a mother’s parental relationship with her biological child is clear whether married or unmarried, an unmarried father must prove his relationship. According to Arizona law, fathers have no automatic rights to a child when they aren’t married to the child’s mother. To establish their parental rights in Arizona, fathers must take specific steps. Likewise, a woman seeking to gain child support must prove the father’s paternity before court proceedings can take place.

How to Establish Paternity and Determine Fatherhood in Arizona

When a father isn’t married to a child’s mother, he has no legal standing as a parent until he proves paternity. He can’t make decisions for the child and has no legal grounds for custody or visitation. In Arizona, there are four ways to show paternity:

  • A child is born within a marriage, making the male spouse the presumptive father (even if separated)
  • Signing the birth certificate (typically issued within a day or even hours after birth)
  • Both parents can sign a certificate of paternity
  • Prove paternity through DNA testing showing at least a 95% likelihood of paternity

When a father needs to use DNA testing to prove paternity, it’s done through the court system so the findings are official. Either the father or the mother of a child can prove paternity to the court system through DNA testing.

Who Can Seek Paternity Petitions

The following entities can file a petition for paternity testing in Arizona:

  • Father
  • Mother
  • Same-sex partner
  • A child guardian
  • The state
  • A public welfare agency

Why is Establishing Paternity Important?

It’s important to determine fatherhood in Arizona in order to participate in the upbringing of a child. Without establishing legal rights as a father, a man has no right to any say in decision-making for the child about such things as education, religion, or medical decisions. He also has no legal rights to visitation.

Proving paternity may also be important for mothers seeking child support from their child’s father. Arizona courts demand proof of paternity before court proceedings on matters of custody and child support when parents are unmarried. Both men and women may legally petition for an establishment of paternity.

Once a father establishes paternity he first has paternity without custody, which gives him access to medical and school records but no legal rights for custody or visitation until after a custody hearing. Once courts officially settle both paternity and custody a father has equal rights to the child as the mother. 

What are the Rights of Both Parents in Arizona?

Arizona family law entitles both parents to decision-making rights and parenting time with the child if they both live within the state. Neither parent can move out of state or more than 100 miles away from the other parent without written notice and the other parent may legally object to the move.

With established paternity also comes an obligation to provide for a child financially. The court works with the incomes of both parents to create a child support order that is fair for both parents. The goal is to provide for a child’s needs without placing an undue burden on either parent.

If you have questions about determining fatherhood in Arizona, a family law attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations.