Paternity in Arizona: How do I establish my rights as an unmarried parent?
In Arizona, paternity/maternity is governed under A.R.S. §25-801 through 25-818. Generally speaking, just about anyone can bring an action to establish the paternity of a child, and the action can be commenced during the pregnancy or at any time after the birth of the child. However, if the action is brought to establish past due child support, the action must be commenced prior to the child’s eighteenth birthday (see A.R.S. §25-804).
Presumption of Paternity
A man is presumed to be the father if:
He and the mother were married at any time in the 10 months prior to the child’s birth.
A genetic test confirms a 95% probability of paternity.
Both the mother and father sign the birth certificate of a child born out of wedlock.
If both parents sign a notarized statement acknowledging paternity
Why File for Paternity?
There are several reasons to file for paternity. A mother may need to file for paternity to ensure she receives the correct amount of child support. Many unmarried fathers try to convince birth mothers not to seek paternity by promising to pay child support every month. However, many times the “support" is well below what the mother would be entitled to under the support guidelines. It is also not uncommon for unmarried fathers to try and avoid paying child support all together. A paternity determination will help ensure the birth mother receives the monthly child support to which she is entitled. It also makes collecting the support much easier as the state can garnish the father’s wages and send the support payment directly to the mother.
Fathers may need to file for paternity to ensure they receive the parenting time with the child to which they are entitled. Some mothers will attempt to withhold a father’s access to the child in an attempt to get the father to pay more money. Additionally, it will ensure that the father pays the correct amount of support every month.
Paternity actions ensure that the rights and responsibilities of each parent are clearly defined. A paternity order can address who is responsible for child support, the amount of the monthly support payment, which parent provides health insurance for the child, the legal custody arrangement, and the parenting time each parent is entitled to.
How Do I File for Paternity?
To file for paternity, the party seeking to establish paternity will file a petition to establish paternity, custody, parenting time and child support with the Superior Court. The Maricopa County Superior Court has self help forms on its web site (see link below. However, the assistance of an attorney may be helpful, especially if there is any chance the other parent will contest the matter. An experienced attorney can help ensure you paternity agreement covers all issues that need to be addressed. Most law firms offer free consultations, so you should take advantage of one before deciding to file on your own.