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Establishing paternity without science or admission is challenging. Legal issues can arise when children are born to unmarried parents. Unfortunately, there have been times where men have paid hefty child support payments for children who are not theirs, learned through genetic testing. Additionally, many single mothers who do not receive child support struggle daily.
A father has no enforceable parental rights concerning access without establishment.
Assertions of paternity in Arizona may need scientific proof. So, genetic testing is routine. His custody status must be scientifically proven. Alternatively, a father’s paternity to a child voluntarily acknowledged. Otherwise, the mother can make custodial decisions without his input.
Unmarried parents in Arizona face different problems than their married counterparts. (The parents could be married, but not to each other.) When a child is born within a marriage, the husband is presumed to be the father by Arizona law. However, if paternity is not established, this can negatively impact all parties involved.
How is my Paternity Established in Arizona?
In Arizona, there are three main ways to establish paternity. Below discusses what these three are and how
- By the presumption of paternity;
- By voluntary acknowledgment of paternity; or
- By settling paternity in court.
Under Arizona law according to ARS § 25-803, not everyone can file a Petition seeking paternity of a child. The only people that may are:
- Said Father
- Same Sex Spouse/Partner
- Conservator or guardian of the child
- Public welfare agency in the county where the child lives
- The state
Presumption of Paternity
Arizona law confirms four presumptions of paternity. A man is presumed to be the child’s father if:
- He was married to the mother ten months before the child’s birth or separated from the mother ten months after the marriage.
- Genetic testing affirms paternity by a margin of 95% or more.
- Both parents sign the birth certificate.
- They both sign a voluntary agreement of paternity.
Presumptions can be challenged with supporting evidence, however.
Does the Father Automatically Have Parental Rights if he Signs the Birth Certificate?
Not necessarily and this is a question often asked. Signing the birth certificate is one way to establish paternity in Arizona. However, the Presumption of Paternity can be refuted. It’s not a concrete method to prove the child is in fact that persons, but a signature is a vital piece of the puzzle.
Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP)
A voluntarily signed, notarized statement can settle paternity. Both parents signify that the child is biologically theirs. This VAP is then filed with the court and the Departments of Economic Security and Health & Human Services.
The VAP may be used to rebut the presumption that the mother’s current husband is the father of her child.
If the biological father was not married to the child’s mother, her current or former husband could intervene.
He can acknowledge the other man’s claims of paternity.
By acknowledging paternity, both parents have equal obligations to support their children. Before they sign, they must be provided with a notice. It details the alternatives and legal effects of executing the document. They may also agree to bind themselves to certified DNA paternity test results. Paternity is confirmed by a minimum probability of at least 95%.
These two options result in a paternity order with the same force and effect as a judgment. The court then sends a copy of its paternity order to DES and DHHS and will issue a child support eventually, if applicable.
If a man doubts that he is the father, he should obtain a DNA test before signing paternity documents.
If the mother does not consent to DNA testing, get legal help promptly. Talk to an experienced lawyer about court-ordered genetic testing and other legal alternatives.
Paternity Establishment by Court Order
A paternity lawsuit can adjudicate the legal father born to unmarried parents. A custodial caretaker can file a petition to establish paternity in Arizona. This is done with the court clerk before or after the birth. However, the petition must be filed before the child turns 18. This will establish a parent’s obligation to pay or receive child support and also can establish custodial issues like parenting time and decision-making.
If the child is an heir, paternity proceedings can occur well into adulthood.
A word of caution, however. Be careful about default judgments in paternity lawsuits. If the putative father does not file a timely response to the petition, it can cost him. The judge can enter a determination of paternity even if he is not the biological father.
If the father fails to comply with a DNA test, a default judgment will ensue. Once a determination of paternity is entered, he must pay current and retroactive child support.
It is highly recommended to consult with an Arizona attorney if you have been served with or need to serve a paternity lawsuit.
Decision-Making and Parenting Time Upon Paternity Establishment
Paternity must be resolved when an unmarried father wants to participate in his child’s life.
Paternity establishment always precedes child custody hearings. Once determined, an unwed parent can seek custody.
Determining parenting time and custody (decision-making) is another area of family law that needs the guidance of a well-known family law and child custody attorney. Therefore, we urge people to speak to one of our family law attorneys for a free consultation where we can explore all options to ensure a smooth court process.
Child Support Orders Follow Paternity Establishment
A father can initiate a court petition to establish paternity in Arizona. Every putative father should get tested before paying child support. After the positive results, he can share in the child’s care. He can file for parenting time and decision-making rights. Therefore, establishing paternity in Arizona is a critical first step. Lawyers and judges rely on DNA testing for this. ARS § 25-814.
Also, a father may have a familial medical condition. DNA testing could help his child get treatment.
The father’s medical insurance may cover a child. And, the child could be eligible to receive life insurance payments and may qualify for Social Security or VA benefits. Establishing paternity may also affect the probate estate when the father dies intestate.
What is an Informal Parenting Agreement?
An Informal Parenting Agreement is a plan that both parents create. It details their child’s custodial arrangements. An informal parenting agreement may work temporarily. Nonetheless, it is not a good long-term.
Both parents find out quickly that casual custodial plans have their limitations. If a parent doesn’t get there way, then they can withhold the child from the other parent since there is no court order. Custody agreements are best resolved in a court of law.
How Do Court-Ordered Parenting Plans Work?
A court-ordered parenting schedule benefits all parties involved. It provides a defined custody arrangement. It spells out the terms of access clearly by which both parents must abide. The child feels secure by having a schedule upon which he learns to depend. And, flexibility can be built into the parenting plan if it is necessary.
A court ordered parenting schedule is also enforceable. This may include, for example, preventing a parent from relocating with the child 100 miles or more away.
Without a court order, one parent could move out of state which may cause the other state to have jurisdiction, not Arizona.
The amount of time a parent spends with the child may affect child support. Under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, it could increase or decrease the amount.
Having a family law attorney guide you through important elements of a parenting plan is beneficial.
Final Thoughts in Establishing Paternity of a Child
Matters of paternity establishment are not always cut and dry. They can be extremely frustrating and confusing. Perhaps you are an unmarried father desiring regular, meaningful contact with your child. Or, a mother who disputes a petition to establish paternity.
You should consult an experienced Arizona family law attorney at Coburn Hintze Maletta immediately to help establish paternity. We are available for a free consultation, simply call us at (602) 825-2500.
David Maletta is a widely respected criminal defense attorney with over 23 years of experience and has worked on over 1,000 cases and has successfully won over 100 jury trials. David graduated from Northern Arizona University, Magna Cum Laude in 1993 with a degree in Psychology. Shortly thereafter, he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Seton Hall University School of Law in 1998. He has extensive experience in criminal and DUI matters, homicide, sexually-based offenses, domestic violence, white-collar crimes, and various misdemeanor crimes.
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I, recently, consulted with Darin after my wife filed for divorce. He was referred to me by a friend whom I very much trust. Darin was the antithesis of the first two attorneys I consulted (who were matter-of-fact and had very little empathy about the fact that I was struggling emotionally with what was transpiring). From the first few minutes of speaking with Darin, it was obvious that he was very knowledgeable and skilled with divorce and family matters. While that was most important to me, the thing that made the difference was his calming, logical, and empathetic approach. He took the time to listen and empathize with me. He took the time to understand what I wanted to achieve through this process and laid out my options. After the consultation, I knew he would be my attorney if I had to pull the trigger. I, ultimately, didn’t have to engage Darin’s services due to a reconciliation with my wife. I hope I never have to go through that process again, however, if I do, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt who I will be hiring to represent me…Darin R. Colburn. Darin, thank you for caring and being more than an attorney.
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I hired David Maletta and it was the best decision of my life. His knowledge, genuine interest, overall attitude, and ability to connect with people is incomparable. I could talk about all of this at length. I COULD do all of that, but that wouldn’t do David justice. He first and foremost demonstrates his interest and genuine care for his client. Being in uncharted territory with a criminal charge and nowhere to turn, David’s presence and personality put all nerves at ease. I went through a jury trial with David beside me. The trial ran for 3 days and I spent a significant amount of time with David one-on-one. During this stressful time, he wanted to hear my input and thoughts on everything. David was incredible from the first day I met him. Not only is he a great attorney, but he is also a great person who cares about people and finding justice for his clients. He connects to the human side of people. I can’t put into words how much David cares about the individual in a case. When it comes to the courtroom, there is NOBODY I would rather have defending me than David.
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Before I hired Darin I went through a total of 3 different attorneys in two different states fighting a jurisdiction battle, when my daughter was taken to a different state. It was a very difficult decision to switch attorneys at one of the most difficult, time sensitive and important times in my case, but I’m very glad I did. Upon receiving my file from previous attorneys Darin came very familiar with my case quickly. Like other people have explained he took the time to lay everything out and explain how the process was going to proceed and what to expect and continued to do this as new issues arrived. He is also very quick at responding to emails and phone calls. My case was getting close to trial as told by my previous attorneys, I did not want to go to trial as I know this is very costly (most attorneys will convince you that you need to.) Darin knew my situation, fought for what was right and got the results I wanted while avoiding a costly trial. He is extremely knowledgeable in the Child Support Guidelines as well. Because of Darin I got my daughter back. I would highly recommend him and would hire again for any future issues. Thanks Darin!
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Dave stayed with me while he pushed back and forth with Covid-19 and the delays with court. Once cited, the state basically decides that you’re guilty through the automatic suspension of your drivers license. Dave immediately took care of that problem and I never lost the privilege of driving. Dave took notes like crazy and was upfront about our uphill battle. I was also well aware that the plea deal that was given to us, was unacceptable and through Dave’s knowledge and experience I had put my trust in him to guide me to make the right decision on how to proceed. With Dave’s guidance I had decided that we needed to fight for something better than what the prosecutor was offering and Dave was 100 percent behind me on that decision. We knew the risks, be we also knew we had very little to lose based on the prosecutions stance. We decided to go to trial… Watching the prosecution and then watching Dave was night and day!! It was clear to the jury that the prosecution didn’t have their facts straight and were not addressing the facts that they could not address…There was a lot at stake for my personal life and my work life. I was found NOT GUILTY. Dave won the trial for me.
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I had an incident and was Given the catch-all charge. There wasn’t really anything I could do by myself to get out of it. Tim was absolutely amazing and worked diligently to ensure that I would have the best possible outcome from my case. Which he successfully achieved! As of right now I am on the path to having my case fully dismissed. A couple things that really helped me through this process was that Tim did an amazing job at was answering my questions. He was available almost anytime and would respond promptly when he got my emails. He was also very approachable and comforting to be around while we had in person meetings and especially when I was at the court house. I would trust him and the company he works for with any other cases in the future and as of right now they will be my first choice if I need a lawyer in the future.
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I honestly just want to let it be known to any and everyone looking for an attorney on a case. Whether it be DUI, possession, or your every day to day traffic violations where you need representation attorney Tim Hintze is your man. You have to respect a man that listens to every request that you make on a case and he gets in there and gets it done. Tim has my respect as an attorney and being a well-rounded representer. From him being honest on the possibility and options for your case to him being easy to work and communicate with via over the phone or face to face Mr. Hintze is working it out.