Law Office of Keith A. Singer, PLLC (520) 795-1800
Law Office of Keith A. Singer, PLLC (520) 795-1800
A paternity action is basically a child custody, visitation, and support case in which the two parents are not married. A paternity action may be filed by a mother or father to establish custody, parenting time, and child support for a child born out of wedlock.
If you are an unmarried mother, you may have to establish paternity in order to get you the child support your child needs. If you are an unmarried father and you have been denied access to your child, it is important to protect your rights.
Before a father can obtain parental rights or a mother can obtain support for a child born out of wedlock, a court must first establish paternity of the child. This is done by filing a petition known as a “paternity action.”
If you have been served with a paternity action or you want to file one, now is a time when you could benefit from the advice of an experienced Family Law attorney. The Law Office of Keith A. Singer is experienced in all aspects of Arizona child custody and child support laws.
How To Establish Paternity In Arizona
Either the father or mother can file a paternity action. Mothers typically file paternity actions to obtain child support. Fathers typically file paternity actions to obtain parenting time and legal decision-making for their child following the breakup of an unmarried relationship.
The first court appearance in a paternity action is a hearing in which no evidence will be presented. If both parties acknowledge who the father is, the court will accept the acknowledgement. If either side disputes who the father is, then the court will schedule an evidentiary hearing. The father, mother, and child will be required to take a paternity test for this hearing.
Once paternity is established, the court can proceed to determine child support, parenting time, and legal decision-making for the child. The stakes can be high for both the mother and the father. For example, a father may be ordered to pay back child support for up to the past three years. The mother may be ordered to share legal decision-making and parenting time with the father and would need to obtain court approval to relocate.
When a child is born to unmarried parents in Arizona, fathers can acknowledge paternity by signing a CS-127 Acknowledgement of Paternity form, which is available at the hospital. As a father, you should not sign this form if there is any uncertainty about paternity. This acknowledgement of paternity would still need to be entered in court to establish paternity.
The Law Office of Keith A. Singer represents both fathers and mothers in paternity actions. Keith believes children have a right to a substantial relationship with both parents, whether or not their parents were married. While Keith believes a collaborative approach is best, especially for the children, he realizes this approach only works if both parties are able to work together.
Paternity And Child Support Responsibilities
Arizona expects parents who are capable of working to contribute to the support of their children. This includes mothers and fathers who are unmarried. If a mother or father is not willing to stipulate that he is the father of a child, either party can file a paternity action and seek to legally establish paternity. If the petition is granted, the man and the child will undergo DNA tests, which will compare DNA taken from skin cells of the gums in a painless procedure.
DNA Testing In Paternity Actions
When ordered, all three parties — mother, child, and alleged father — must submit to DNA testing. The tests will take place at a DNA testing facility designated by the court. The state will pay for the cost of the DNA tests in advance. However, if the alleged father is determined to be the father of the child, he will be responsible for the cost of the tests.
DNA tests are highly accurate, with many tests showing higher than a 99 percent probability of paternity. In Arizona, a DNA test showing 95 percent probability of paternity is sufficient to establish a legal presumption of paternity. DNA test results can also be used to exclude a man as the father of a child.
Once paternity is established either by stipulation or DNA testing, the court can proceed to determine child support, parenting time and legal decision-making for the child.
Child Custody Between Unmarried Parents
Disputes over child custody and legal decision-making for a child born out of wedlock often follow the breakup of an unmarried relationship. In many cases, the father wishes to obtain visitation rights after visits have been cut off by the mother.
If you have a child with someone else, the law in Arizona says that it is in the child’s best interests to have substantial contact with both parents, whether the parents are married or not. Arizona courts are concerned solely with the best interests of the child rather than the desires of the parents. However, substantial contact does not necessarily mean equal contact.
The presumption of substantial contact with both parents may be overcome by issues such as child abuse, domestic violence and child safety.