Paternity in Arizona
On March 31, 2020, Arizona Family Law Attorney Alison C. Briggs of My Arizona Lawyers writes:
One of the most common issues that can come up for fathers in Arizona is what rights they have when a child is born. There are three ways to be the legal father of a child in Arizona. This means that when a child is born it is entirely possible that there are multiple putative/possible fathers, legally. If a woman is legally married at the time of a child’s conception and birth, the husband is the presumed legal father of the child. Even if husband and wife have been separated for years, the law assumes that the husband is the father of the wife’s child. It will need to be sorted out in a divorce and it can impede the actual biological father from asserting any access to the child.
If a man signs a birth certificate, they are legally presumed to be the father of the child. People sign birth certificates in the heat of the moment and then it becomes apparent they might not be the actual father to the child. Again, this will need to be sorted out in the family court and it can impede the actual biological father’s access to their child.
If a man has sexual relations with a woman and roughly nine months later she gives birth, again, he could be one of the legal fathers of that child. The overall issue that presents when navigating the paternity laws of Arizona is the issue of multiple possible fathers. The only way to really determine the biological father is through paternity testing. However, paternity testing is not a given. It has to be requested through the court.
If Mother thinks that Potential Father A is the father of her child and she files a Petition to Establish child support, serves Potential Father A with the court documents, and Potential Father A never responds to the summons/court paperwork, she will be able to get a child support order against Potential Father A without his response. If Potential Father A fails to respond he is waiving his right to contest the paternity of the child. This means that if ten years later, Potential Father A finds out he’s sterile and never could have fathered a child, he could and likely would still be on the hook for the support of the child because he NEVER asked for paternity testing.
There is an entire section of laws that correspond with paternity laws in Arizona surrounding the importance of ‘permanency’ for children. This means that if someone is presumed to be the Father of a child and he never contests it, years later it is in the best interest of the child for this to be the permanent situation. If someone is presumed to be the father of the child and court orders are enacted declaring the same, it is more than an uphill battle to undo this legal conundrum. The only real way to undo this is to have the actual biological father come forward and ask to sever Potential Father A’s rights to the child. In short, someone has to be available to ‘step in’ financially to care for the child.
It is always better to be safe than sorry, as cliché as that may sound. Get paternity testing done as soon as possible if there is even a remote possibility the child is not yours. Respond to all court paperwork and call a lawyer before it is too late.
My AZ Family Lawyers has a complete team of professionals at your disposal that can help you sort out your paternity issues and help you establish whether or not you are the father. Contact us today for a FREE consultation. (480) 833-8000