Phoenix Paternity/Maternity Actions Lawyer
In today’s society, where unmarried cohabitation arrangements are on the rise and over 40% of all births are to unmarried women, the legal issue of Paternity has become an increasingly important matter in courts across the country.
There are many reasons for filing a Paternity action. Three of the most common scenarios that I see in my Family Law practice are the following:
(1) When a child is born out of wedlock, a father may find himself without any parental rights. If his name is not on the birth certificate, and the mother withholds the child and refuses to allow reasonable access, then it may be necessary for the father to file a Paternity action in order to establish that he is the biological parent of the child. Once parentage has been established, the Court can give the father custodial and parenting time rights.
(2) When a child is born to an unmarried mother and the father refuses to financially contribute to the care and support of the child, there is no way for her to force him to do so. Therefore, the mother may need to file a Paternity action and ask a judge for an order requiring the father to pay child support and share in the expenses relating to the child. Once paternity has been legally established, the Court can order the father to pay child support and expenses. It can even give the mother a judgment for past support and expenses that the father had refused to pay.
(3) Sometimes parents of a child may disagree on where the child should live; how much time she/he should spend with the other parent; the choice of schools; the religion; and many other important issues. The parents may be unable to agree on who should be responsible for making major medical, educational, or social decisions for the child. When the parents are unmarried and there is no existing paternity order, they may find it necessary to file an action for Paternity in the Superior Court. The Paternity action will establish whether the father is the biological parent of the child. If he is, then Court can also make orders for custody, parenting time, child support, decision-making authority, and other issues. Once a ruling is made, the parties are legally obligated to abide by the terms of the court orders.
The Maternity and Paternity statutes can be found beginning at A.R.S. §25-801.
Paternity can be proven by blood testing or DNA evidence, or by an admission by the man that he is the father of the child. The parties can also sign a Voluntarily Acknowledgment of Paternity in accordance with A.R.S. §25-812 (sometimes this is done at the time of the child’s birth). Once filed with the Clerk of Superior Court, the Acknowledgment shall have the same effect as an order establishing paternity. A Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity can be challenged or rescinded under limited circumstances as set forth in the statutes.
A man is presumed to be the father of the child, pursuant to A.R.S. §25-814 if:
(1) He and the mother of the child were married at any time in the ten months immediately preceding the birth or the child is born within ten months after the marriage is terminated;
(2) Genetic testing affirms that there is at least a ninety-five percent probability of paternity;
(3) A birth certificate is signed by the mother and father of a child born out of wedlock; or
(4) A notarized or witnessed statement is signed by both parents acknowledging paternity, or substantially similar separate notarized and witnessed statements are signed by both parents acknowledging paternity.
A presumption of paternity can only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence – and the burden of proof is on the challenger.
The mere fact that paternity has been established does not mean that a parent has an enforceable right to custody, parenting time, or child support. If the parties disagree on decision-making authority or a parenting time plan – or if child support is not being paid – then it will be necessary to obtain additional orders from the court. A request for orders of custody, parenting time, or child support can be made in the original Paternity action, or at any time thereafter during the minority of the child. (Note: Under limited circumstances set forth in the Arizona Revised Statutes, an action for child support can be brought even after the child reaches 18 years of age.)
The factors which the court uses to determine custody (now referred to as Legal Decision-Making Authority) are contained in to A.R.S. §25-403 et seq. The Child Support statute is A.R.S. §25-320.
Custody. Parenting Time. Child Support. These are three important reasons why an unmarried parent might find it necessary to file a Paternity action in the Arizona courts.
Our Arizona Paternity Attorneys are here to help you. Gary J. Frank has a wealth of experience handling complex Family Law disputes as a litigator, a mediator, and a former Superior Court Judge Pro Tempore. Law Firm Partner, Hanna Juncaj, is a highly skilled litigator, a certified mediator,and a compassionate counselor. If you are in need of advice or representation with regard to a Paternity issue, please contact our office for a consultation. We would be happy to talk to you.