In this article, you will discover:
- The importance of establishing paternity in Arizona.
- How establishing paternity affects more than just child support.
- The serious question you must ask before severing your parental rights.
In Arizona, Does The Father Have Any Rights If An Unmarried Couple Has A Child?
Typically, the father has no rights if an unmarried couple has a child, although there are rare exceptions. We know who the mom is; that is easy to figure out for anyone who was in the hospital. It’s not always so easy to figure out who the dad is, and we are hesitant to give rights to someone unless we are sure they are actually the dad. Sometimes that’s solved in the hospital with things like an Acknowledgement of Paternity or someone getting on the Putative Father Registry, but other times? Not so much.
Can A Potential Biological Father Demand Or Refuse A Paternity Test In Arizona?
In Arizona, it depends on the circumstances, but generally, we encourage paternity testing because we want to know who the child’s parents are, so we can properly support those children.
A potential biological father can demand a paternity test. We have an established procedure going through court to get paternity testing put in place. Now, can a potential father refuse a paternity test? It kind of depends.
If mom comes up to you and says, “Hey, will you take a paternity test?” You are certainly within your rights to refuse. If mom goes to court and gets a court order for you to take that paternity test, it may be dicey to refuse that. There can be consequences for the refusal.
How Does A Father Establish Paternity In Arizona?
The easiest way to establish paternity in Arizona is by filing a paternity case. These cases have become a lot more common as people have children but don’t get married. When things don’t work out, and they split up, and then we need a paternity case.
Filing a paternity case is pretty easy. There will always be an element of proof needed. Sometimes that just means people agree, but sometimes that means getting a paternity test. Sometimes the proof is in your name on the birth certificate or a signed acknowledgment of paternity. There is that extra element of proof needed because, unlike marriage, we don’t assume the children who are born to these people are going to be their common children.
Once Paternity Is Established In Arizona, Is The Biological Father Required To Pay Child Support Or Back Child Support?
There isn’t always a requirement that a biological father pays child support once paternity is established. It’s going to depend on the income of the parties and the parenting plan. Sometimes dad establishes paternity because mom isn’t doing anything. Maybe she is out partying, doing drugs, and her parents are raising the kids. Dad wants to set up rights so he can take care of the child properly. In a situation like that, mom would probably end up paying support to dad.
Child support is always going to be determined by the Arizona Guidelines. Once a paternity case is started, we are going to look to see if there is a period of support that goes back up to three years. Once that back support is established, we look to see what the support is going to be going forward.
This back support can be a barrier for dads if they haven’t been involved. They haven’t been paying child support, and mom takes the kid away, but they want to rights to their kid. They look at the situation, thinking, “Oh my gosh if I try to get rights to my kid, I’m going to have to pay three years of back support. What am I going to do?” There are moms out there that will use this as a scare tactic. I would encourage dads to not be quite so afraid of it. Having your kid and having your time with them is worth more than some money—I would hope. But also, think about that as a good reason to get a case started as soon as possible – don’t wait three years for that to build up, get that case filed immediately.
If A Biological Father Wishes To Relinquish Parental Rights, Can He Do So Under Arizona Law?
In Arizona, we have a procedure to terminate or to sever a person’s parental rights. However, severing your parental rights is very permanent. I would caution any parent who is thinking about doing so to think that through. Ask yourself, do you want to be on the hook for supporting a kid that you are not allowed to spend any time with for the next 18 years?
Once you’ve severed your rights to your kids, they are gone for good. Just because you’ve severed your right to have parenting time and to make legal decisions, you still have an obligation to support that kid. Until that kid gets adopted, you may very well be on the hook for child support but not be allowed to see your kid. That’s not an ideal situation. Again, think carefully about it; there are no do-overs or mulligans, once you sever those rights they are pretty much gone for good.
If A Biological Father Is Established, Does This Automatically Give Him Custodial Rights?
Establishing paternity is one of several elements in a paternity case and does not automatically give him custodial rights. You also must establish parenting time, legal decision-making, and child support. We often establish paternity first because it’s easy to get a DNA test that says you are the dad or not. We still must get the other steps set up, and that can often be a little harder if the mom is resistant. They aren’t based on a DNA test, they are based on the best interests of the child(ren), and that takes a bit more work to prove in court.
I always encourage my clients to get temporary orders put into place as soon as possible to start some kind of parenting plan or legal decision-making rights. The process to finalize these things can take six to nine months. It’s bad to get to the end of that time and finally be able to have rights to your kid, only to have the judge tell you haven’t been building a relationship with your child for at least the last six to nine months. They may limit your time with the child while you build that relationship.
For more information on Parental Rights for Children of Unmarried Parents, an initial consultation is your next best step.