Unlike birth mothers, it isn’t always immediately apparent who fathers a child. So what happens in Arizona if the man a mother presumes is the father of her child refuses to acknowledge paternity or sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity with the court and denies the child is his? Questions of paternity can greatly impact matters of child support and custody.
Alleged fathers who are not wed to a child’s birth mother are not under obligation to support a child unless they establish paternity. But what if the alleged father refuses to take a paternity test? Does a mother have legal recourse?
Arizona family courts have a process for establishing a child’s paternity even when an alleged father refuses to submit to a paternity test willingly. This process may be used by the child’s mother, guardian, or—in some cases—a state agency.
When parents are married during a child’s birth or if a man signs a birth certificate, the state presumes he is the father unless he takes action to prove otherwise. On the other hand, an unmarried mother with an alleged biological father of her child who insists he is not the father must also take legal action to prove her claim, resolving the matter with a Declaratory Judgement of Paternity. A mother can file an action for paternity in Arizona after making a sworn statement to allege paternity or by showing a reasonable possibility of paternity.
DNA testing can satisfy the question of paternity with at least a 95% probability of the paternal relationship. A mother may file the court request during pregnancy, after birth, or at any time before the child turns 18 years old. In cases where inheritance is in question, the court could order a paternity test even beyond a child’s 18th birthday.
A mother may also request family members to submit to DNA testing for an alleged father who is deceased. This is known as avuncular testing.
A Chandler family law attorney with experience in this area can help with the process of obtaining a court order in any of the above circumstances.
When there’s a court-ordered paternity test, an alleged father must participate in the process as ordered or else be held in contempt. Being held in contempt of court in Arizona can result in jail time and substantial fines. In this case, the alleged father would remain in contempt until he agreed to submit to the court-ordered paternity test. In some cases, refusal could result in a court judgment to pay child support regardless of the lack of proof of paternity.
When an alleged father submits to a court-ordered paternity test conducted in a controlled environment and the court establishes paternity, then the father’s name may be added to the child’s birth certificate. It’s likely that the court will follow up with an order for child support obligations and custodial rights. While the court cannot obligate a biological father to visit their child, they can put the structure in place in case the father decides to involve himself in the child’s life. However, child support payments are not optional in Arizona and the state may use enforcement measures if necessary to secure payment.