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.
In our previous article, we reviewed what paternity is in a legal sense. We also discussed a few of the more common reasons why it is so important for a father or mother to have paternity legally established. Today, in the second installment on this matter, we will look more closely at how a man or woman can go about establishing paternity in the state of Arizona and the statutory language on the issue.
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 tests results are received, they can always be contested, and the matter may proceed to trial. It is also possible for a paternity case to be referred to the Assistant Attorney General’s Office to force a court hearing on the matter, establish paternity, and order child support.
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. To review the unique specifics of your paternity case, we recommend scheduling a consultation with our compassionate and expert attorneys.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.
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