Arizona Paternity Laws

arizona paternity lawsBeing a birth parent of a child holds significant legal requirements and rights.  Determining paternity is a significant aspect in family law.  This blogpost will discuss major aspects around determining paternity and its implications in Arizona family law proceedings.

If a couple is married, in Arizona it is presumed that the husband is the child’s father.  Being considered the father, or the mother, allows this person to hold significant legal rights and responsibilities.  In contrast, if a couple is not married, there is no presumption of paternity.

If a man wants to establish fatherhood and hold the rights and responsibilities, the man can initiate proceedings and establish paternity.  To establish paternity, a man must file a petition, called a Complaint of Paternity, in a county court where the child in question lives.  The man must file in the Superior Court of Arizona, as this court is the only court in Arizona that holds the power to issue paternity and child custody orders.

In certain situations, there are cases where government entities may file to establish paternity.  Usually government agencies will do this to gain benefits for the child by establishing paternity, thereby initiating the financial responsibilities of a father.

If paternity has not been establish, a man may self-register as a potential father on the Putative Father Registry in Arizona.  This will not establish paternity or provide legal rights, but a name on this registry would require a court to provide notice in the event the child listed was put into a foster care placement or adoption.

Establishing paternity allows a father to be on notice of any claims made against him, like child support orders.  The mother of a child may file for child support on her own, and a court may order that child support without input from the father in question.  The man may be unaware of this initiation and potentially miss child support payments, which can affect credit scores and make the man susceptible to legal enforcement action.

The most common ways to establish paternity are voluntarily establishment, administratively, or by court action.

  • Voluntary
    • Arizona allows unmarried parents to establish paternity by both parents sighing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity and file it with the state. This can also be done on a form with the Arizona Department of Health Services office.
  • Administratively
    • This way also utilizes the Arizona Department of Human Services. If a mother seeks public assistance, the Arizona Department of Human services may seek to establish paternity.  The Department is responsible for handling child support obligations after an order of child support has been issued.  Establishing paternity may minimize the payment of state assistance.
  • Court Action
    • Either parent, not just the father, can ask the court for an order of paternity. This can be one of the easiest of ways to not only establish paternity, but to also complete a full order for child custody, parenting time, and child support. A court can order for both parties and the child to participate in a DNA test.  If the DNA shows at least 95% probability of parenting, the court will presume that man is the biological father.

In the contrast, a man has the burden of proving himself not the father, by either showing a DNA test or other proof.  If a man does not answer the court when it initiates paternity proceedings, the court will order a declaratory judgment and establish the man as the father.

Paternity has serious consequences.  If a man finds himself in a situation to either prove paternity or challenge it, it is advantageous to consult an attorney.

Click here for information on Arizona child custody laws and fathers rights in Arizona.

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