When an unmarried couple splits up after being together for some time, it’s relatively simple for them to go separate ways when they are not married. But when there are children involved it gets complicated, especially when the father wishes to remain part of his children’s lives. It can be in the best interest of the mother as well to establish the paternity of the father if she needs financial support to raise them.
Paternity requirements in Arizona
The biological father has no legal rights to custody or parental time, nor is he obligated to pay child support, unless his paternity is established. There are several ways to establish paternity in Arizona:
- The father may sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital after the baby is born, or both parents can sign and file this form with the appropriate court or agency later
- Both parents may fill out and sign a Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity form through the Hospital Paternity Program at the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) office
- Where one parent is uncooperative, the case can go through the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for a hearing to establish paternity
- Genetic testing will establish paternity if the father is unknown, this can also be done through DCSS
Custody and child support
Although Arizona courts do not favor the gender of one parent over another when deciding custody, until legal paternity is established, the child will remain with the mother. Once this is done, Arizona law states that, unless the court determines differently, custody of the child will go to the parent with whom the child has lived for the majority of the six months prior to the establishment of paternity.
As always, however, the court factors in the best interests of the child when making custody decisions. Judges tend to put mothers and fathers on more equal footing now than in the past when granting legal decision-making or parenting time, unless one parent has been deemed unfit.
Just as fighting for custody can be difficult, figuring out child support calculations according to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines can be equally challenging. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney who knows the system and who will advocate for your children’s emotional and financial wellbeing.