3 ways to establish paternity under Arizona law include:
- Presumption of paternity
- By voluntary acknowledging paternity, or
- By decreeing paternity in court.
Establishing Paternity By Presumption of Paternity
In Arizona law, there are 4 easy presumptions of paternity. Commonly, a man is assumed to be the father of the child if:
- He was married to the mother throughout the 10 months right before the birth of the child. Or the child was born inside of 10 months after their marriage was dissolved by legal separation, divorce annulment, or death.
- Genetic testing confirms paternity by a 95% or more likeliness.
- They have both signed the birth certificate and are unmarried.
- They both sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and are unmarried.
Those presumptions are groundless without concise and conclusive evidence, so they can be challenged. In addition, if a court decree proved another man’s fatherhood of the child, then the presumption of paternity is invalidated. A.R.S. § 25-814.
Establishing Paternity By Voluntary Acknowledging Paternity
Another way for parents that aren’t married to establish paternity is by acknowledging paternity in a recorded declaration that is either witnessed or recognized by a notary. A.R.S. § 25-812. The document determines paternity by acknowledging that both the mother and father are the child’s biological parents. The document is then is filed within the courts, the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Economic Security (DES).
The signed document may be used to object to the marital belief that when the child was born, the father was the husband to his wife. When the mother was married, and her former husband or husband is believed to be the father of the child (as addressed above). If the document is filed by the biological father who was not married to the mother, then the former husband or husband can give written permission to the other man establishing of paternity of the child.
Acknowledging paternity has to be truly voluntary. Prior to signing, both parties must be presented with a notice of their options and the legal impact of implementing the document. With the acknowledgment of paternity, both parents have the same constitutional parental rights and equal responsibilities to support their child.
The parents may also “agree to be bound” by the outcome of a DNA test. The lab analyzing the genetic samples has to be certified. If the DNA test confirms paternity by at least a 95%, the lab’s affirmation is usually sufficient enough to establish legal paternity.
The signed and filed document and the lab’s confirmation are two options that result in a paternity order being provided by the judge with similar effects and force as a judgment. The court then sends copies of the paternity order to DES and DHHS, simplifying compliance of child support.
Because of the significance of establishing paternity, the alleged father should consider acquiring a DNA test prior to signing a paternity acknowledgment to ensure that he is the biological father by a 95% or higher probability. If the mother doesn’t consent to a DNA test or the father wants to revoke his acknowledgment because of deception, falsification, or other wrongdoing, then talk to an experienced lawyer about court-ordered DNA testing and other legal options.
Court Ordered Paternity Establishment
The last way of establishing paternity in Arizona is by court litigation to arbitrate the legal father of a child born to unmarried parents. This is called a paternity lawsuit. A.R.S. § 25-806.
The father, mother, conservator, guardian, or a public welfare agency or the State of Arizona, can file a request to establish paternity with the court. A.R.S. § 25-803. The request can be filed after the child is born or when the mother is pregnant. The only condition is that the request must be filed before the child’s 18th birthday to initiate a parent’s responsibility to pay child support or back child support payments. A.R.S. § 25-804. Paternity litigation can be started after the child reaches adulthood to determine, as an example, that the child is an heir of the parent.
Be wary of default judgments in paternity lawsuits. If the father doesn’t file a prompt response to the petition, the judge can then enter a judgment of paternity and order child support payments. If a DNA test was ordered, but the presumed father did not show up for the test, the judge can then administer a default judgment of paternity and issue child support instructions. A.R.S. § 25-813. Once a judgment of paternity is administered, both backdated child support (when applicable) and current child support is ordered. A.R.S. § 25-809.
When paternity is established, both parties can begin working toward a parenting plan.
“Paternity Establishment in Arizona.” Stewart Law Group, www.arizonalawgroup.com/child-custody/paternity-establishment/.
Can a Lawyer Help with Establishing Paternity?
You should consult a lawyer if you have questions on issues like child support, child custody, and paternity as they can be very complicated to navigate on your own. Hiring a family law attorney such as Moshier Law can help you better understand your legal options and assist if you are having difficulties establishing paternity or wish to withdraw.