Arizona Paternity Laws
What is Paternity in Arizona
You are the parent of a child and you were not married to the child’s mother you need to know what paternity is in Arizona. As importantly, you should be familiar with Arizona paternity laws.
Arizona paternity laws apply when a child is born out of wedlock.
There is no legal presumption a parent is the father of the child when that child is conceived and born between two unmarried people.
You should also know there are very important reasons to establish paternity of your child.
Until a father legally establishes paternity, he has no legal rights to the child. He does not have the right to exercise parenting time with the child.
He cannot make legal decisions for the child, such as medical care or where your child attends school.
The most common way to establish paternity is by going to court and obtaining a Declaratory Judgment of paternity.
Once you do so you can have your name added to your child’s birth certificate.
A person may request DNA testing to determine if he is the father of a child. Paternity laws in Arizona allow a court to order DNA testing to establish if that individual is the father of the child.
There are new methods of scientific testing that are very accurate at proving whether a man is or is not the father of a child.
The test results can exclude a person from being a possible father of a child or can provide evidence that it is very likely the man is the father of the child.
Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-814 provides that paternity can be established through genetic testing, so long as that testing proves at least a 95% probability the man is the father of the child.
You should also be aware of where you may establish paternity of your child.
You can establish paternity through the court or through the Department of Economic Services.
Once paternity is established, the court will then issue orders regarding legal decision making for the child, parenting time, determine current child support and, if necessary, issue a judgment for the payment of past child support.
The Importance of Establishing Paternity
Some people ask why should I establish paternity in Arizona. Establishing paternity in Arizona can open up numerous issues concerning legal and financial obligations in Arizona.
When a child is born out of wedlock (meaning a father’s biological paternity has not been established), it’s hard for a father to gain legal rights to their children.
Similarly, it is not possible for a mother to request orders for the payment of child support without first establishing the paternity of the father.
Establishing paternity is necessary to enable a father to play a role in the process of legal decision-making, which includes medical decisions and decisions regarding where the child goes to school and the like.
Arizona has a Putative Father Registry where fathers may list their names in connection with a particular child if they believe there is a chance they are the child’s biological father.
By doing so, they will receive notice if the child is being placed for adoption or is placed in foster care.
Being listed on the Putative Father Registry, however, does not establish paternity in Arizona or any legal rights to the child.
Four Ways to Legally Establish Paternity in Arizona
It is important to know how you establish paternity in Arizona.
Arizona paternity laws allow paternity to be established in several ways, which may be summarized into the following four categories:
- Filing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity with the court;
- Filing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity with the Arizona Department of Economic Security
- Filing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity at the hospital when the child is born through the Arizona Department of Health Services;
- Filing a paternity action with the court and having the judge assigned to your case issue a Declaratory Judgment of Paternity.
Voluntary Establishment of Paternity in Arizona
One common misconception regarding the establishment of paternity is that paternity may only be established by a judge after DNA testing has been completed. If the parties agree, they may establish paternity voluntarily without ever going to court.
For example, they may both sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, which is filed at one of the many Arizona Department of Health Services offices located throughout Arizona.
Although doing so does grant the father all of the legal rights and responsibilities attendant to a parent/child relationship, those rights are not defined until the parties go to court to establish orders about custody (now referred to as “legal decision making”), parenting time, and child support.
Easiest Way to Establish Paternity in Arizona
The easiest way to establish paternity in Arizona is to do so at the hospital when the baby is born. The hospital will provide a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form for the parents to complete and sign.
Upon completion, the form will be sent to either the Arizona Department of Economic Services, the Arizona Department of Health Services, or to the superior court to establish paternity legally.
If you have not signed that form when the child is born, you may go to any of the several Arizona Department of Economic Services offices to sign and file that Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity.
Understand that both parents must sign that form for it to be valid. Sometimes it may be unclear as to who may be the biological father of a child.
A DNA test may be ordered to discover the biological father’s identity.
There is always the possibility that one party may decline to take the test, but it is more likely than not that an order will be issued by a judge requiring a party to submit to a DNA test.
Once those results are received, the parties may then stipulate as to the identity of the biological father, or they may participate in a trial on the issue and the Court will decide if the testing establishes the man as the father of the child to establish paternity.
Paternity issues can have a significant impact on parents and their children.
How your attorney handles those paternity issues will have a tremendous impact on the parenting rights and responsibilities each parent will have with their child.
Arizona paternity laws provide each parent with certain rights and obligations with their child.
Either parent may petition the court to order DNA testing to verify a father is the court decides the actual biological parent of the child before issues such as custody and support.
The court will issue orders providing for the support of the child, including retroactive child support for past unpaid child support, and is required to enter custody orders that are determined to be in the best interests of the parties’ child.
The professionals at Hildebrand Law, PC will keep you informed and directly involved in the management of your paternity case throughout the entire process.
You will be provided with practical and efficient solutions to your paternity issues based on your particular circumstances and goals.
How to Establish Paternity in Arizona
When an unwed couple conceives a child, it is necessary to legally protect the best interests of the child and both parties by establishing paternity. If you’re a man or a woman trying to work through a paternity matter, you know first hand how challenging, and complex the process can be.
It’s also likely that you understand the value of having an expert in your corner to hash out the legalities and specifics of your case. With more than 100 years of combined experience, the knowledgeable and trustworthy attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC have what it takes to represent you in any family law matter, including paternity cases.
Legal Avenues for Establishing Paternity
Unlike the scenes from favorite daytime talk shows, establishing who is the legal father of a child can be a much more complicated process than simply taking a DNA paternity test. While these tests may be part of the process, they are not the sole means of legally establishing fatherhood. In the state of Arizona, there are voluntary and nonvoluntary ways of pursuing a paternity determination. What exactly does that mean?
Many times, an unwed couple may intentionally conceive a child. In cases where there is no dispute as to who the biological father is, there are a few means of voluntarily establishing paternity. However, there are other situations in which a pregnancy may be unplanned, and it may be questionable as to who the biological father is.
For instances where the child’s biological father is disputed, there are ways of enlisting the assistance of the courts to render a final, legally binding decision on the matter.
Voluntary Options for Establishing Paternity
In Arizona, the Hospital Paternity Program (HPP) is tasked with overseeing the state’s voluntary paternity initiatives. Our state’s Voluntary Paternity Program was established to assist unwed couples in establishing paternity immediately after their child is born.
When the biological father’s identity is not challenged and you wish to establish legal paternity voluntarily, you may file a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit. There are a few ways you may submit this Voluntary Acknowledgment, and the affidavit may be filed with any of these three entities:
- The Arizona Courts
- The Arizona Department of Economic Security
- The Arizona Department of Health Services
The most common and easiest way of legally establishing paternity is by doing so at the birthing facility or hospital right after the child is born. The medical facility will provide a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form for the mother and father to review and sign.
The hospital will then forward the form to one of the three entities listed above. It is important to note that the process of legally establishing paternity is not complete just by signing the acknowledgment form. Completion of the Acknowledgment form does grant legal rights and responsibilities to the father, but the specific rights and responsibilities are not defined until there is a formal court order outlining the details of custody, child support, and other important matters.
Nonvoluntary Options for Establishing Paternity
In cases where the parties don’t agree on who the father of a child is, or if one party requests a DNA paternity test, the couple or individual may file a paternity action and petition the courts to obtain a Declaratory Judgment of Paternity.
It is important to note that this judgment is not solely reserved for situations in which one or both individuals disagree on who the legal father of a child is.
Obtaining a Declaratory Judgment of Paternity may be voluntary or involuntary; however, this is the route frequently chosen to resolve paternity disputes that are not amicable.
Arizona judges may order DNA tests to confirm the father’s biological ties to the child. Once the results of the test are received, they can always be contested, and the matter may proceed to trial.
Using DNA Testing to Establish Paternity in Arizona
We are going to talk to you about the requirements for DNA testing to establish paternity in Arizona. We are also going to talk to you about various types of DNA testing, including prenatal DNA testing. Lastly, we are going to explain the legal requirements relating to the “chain of custody” for DNA tests necessary to have a DNA test admitted as evidence in Court.
Different Methods of DNA Testing to Establish Paternity in Arizona
There are new methods of scientific testing that are very accurate to prove whether a man is the father of a child. Testing laboratories now use DNA testing to establish paternity in Arizona.
The test results can show whether a man is a child’s father to a very high degree of certainty.
All DNA tests will have some degree of accuracy, and no DNA test will indicate a person is guaranteed 100% to be the father of a child.
The law in Arizona only requires that the DNA test indicates the certainty of at least 95% for a judge to be able to presume the person is the father of the child.
If the likelihood of paternity is 95% or greater according to the DNA test, the father then has the burden of proving he is not the father of the child by clear and convincing evidence.
DNA Testing Procedures in Arizona
Typically, DNA testing can be accomplished with only one parent and the child. The mother of the child, therefore, does not have to participate in the DNA testing procedure for a man to determine if he is the biological father of a child through DNA testing.
The testing is typically performed by obtaining a swab from inside the cheek of the father and inside the cheek of the child to obtain what are called Buccal cells. Those samples of Buccal cells are then sent to a DNA testing lab for testing.
Prenatal DNA Testing in Arizona
In some cases, it may be necessary to establish the paternity of an unborn child. Specifically, there may be a need for prenatal DNA testing to establish the identity of the father of a fetus. Fortunately, there are methods to obtain DNA testing of a fetus.
A more invasive way of performing DNA testing of an unborn child is through a process called chorionic villus sampling by which a sample of the placenta is used for the DNA testing or amniocentesis by which amniotic fluid is used for the DNA testing.
However, there is now a much less invasive way to conduct DNA testing of an unborn child. It has been discovered that there is a small amount of the unborn child’s DNA present in the mother’s blood. This DNA is present in the mother’s blood as soon as seven weeks after pregnancy.
Chain of Custody Requirements for the Admission of DNA Test Results
Before you run off and purchase a home DNA test to establish the paternity of a child, you need to first understand the legal requirements for the admission of DNA testing results in court. The law requires a person submitting scientific evidence (i.e., the DNA test results) to establish the property “chain of custody” has been followed in the handling of the test samples all the way through the test and corresponding test results.
Typically, establishing the chain of custody requires testimony from an independent person who properly identified from who the DNA samples were obtained and the subsequent labeling and handling of those samples throughout the DNA testing process.
As a result, you are much better off using a qualified lab that has the proper procedures to later establish the proper chain of custody was used in collecting, processing, and testing DNA samples.
Whether you require assistance with voluntary or nonvoluntary means of establishing paternity, the expert attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC are available to assist you. Contact a member of our friendly and professional team today at (480)947-4339 to schedule your initial consultation. With our vast experience, you can rest assured you’ll receive sound legal advice when you work with any of our family lawyers.
Is a DNA Test Necessary to Establish Paternity?
Many of our clients have this question when they first meet with one of our expert attorneys. The simple answer is no. DNA tests are not required to legally establish paternity in cases where the father’s identity is not disputed.
If the matter is contested, however, the courts may order the parent to participate in a DNA test for there to be official, medical documentation to substantiate or rule out his relation to the child.
It is important to note here that genetic testing does not have to yield a 100 percent match to establish paternity legally. The DNA test need only document at least 95 percent genetic probability of paternity.
What Do the Arizona Statutes Say About Paternity?
Many clients prefer to do a little bit of research before contacting a lawyer for a consultation. If you’d like to review the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) that are relevant to the topic of paternity, you may reference ARS Section 25-814. Under this section of laws, factors related to the presumption of paternity are outlined. To summarize, according to the ARS, a man is believed to be the legal and biological father of two of the four circumstances apply:
- If the couple was married at any point during the ten months before the child’s birth, or if the child was born within ten months after the legal dissolution of the marriage
- If the mother and father of a child born out of wedlock sign a birth certificate
- If DNA tests confirm at least a 95 percent probability of paternity
- If a notarized and witnessed statement is signed by the mother and father acknowledging and asserting paternity
Of course, the details of each case are unique. While these four guidelines are what the court usually takes into consideration for paternity matters, there may always be complicating factors.
Alternatives to Establishing Paternity in Arizona
Some people ask where do I establish paternity in Arizona. Among other ways to establish paternity in Arizona discussed below, paternity may be established by filing a Complaint of Paternity in the Superior Court of the county where the child lives.
The Superior Court system in Arizona is the only court in which you may file a paternity case.
The Superior Court is also the only court that has the authority to enter child custody orders, now referred to as legal decision-making authority, parenting time orders and child support orders.
However, there are unique situations that arise that give governmental agencies the power to enter an order establishing paternity.
For example, the Arizona Court of Appeals in the case of Rios v. Industrial Commission held the Arizona Industrial Commission had the authority to establish paternity for Workers Compensation benefits sought for a child.
It is important that you establish paternity in Arizona if you believe you are the father of a child born out of wedlock.
The reason it is important to establish paternity is to secure your rights of legal custody and parenting time, as well as to establish child support.
If you delay and the mother of the child files a petition to establish child support, she will likely also ask for the entry of a judgment for past child support, which can hurt your credit and leave you with a large amount of back child support to pay.
Also, unless you have child custody orders in place, the mother of the child can relocate with your child outside of Arizona without any notice to you.
If you have not yet established paternity, you should at least register yourself as a potential father of the child on the Putative Father Registry in Arizona.
Although listing yourself as a potential father of a child on the Putative Father Registry does not establish paternity or provide you with any rights or obligations towards the child, inclusion in that registry would require a court to provide you notice in the event the child is put in foster care placement or an adoption of the child is attempted.
If you have questions about paternity laws in Arizona, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona paternity and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in paternity and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your paternity or family law case around today.
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