Determining paternity is important for both parents of a child. In the State of Arizona, paternity determines the legally recognized father of a child. Legal rights including parenting time and legal decision-making cannot be awarded or enforced without establishing paternity. Legal responsibilities, such as child support are also dependent upon legal paternity. If a couple is married, or was married anytime in the ten months prior to the birth of the child, the law presumptively recognizes the husband as the father under A.R.S. § 25-814(A)(1). Determining paternity gets more complex when a child is born out of wedlock. Signing a name to the birth certificate is not enough to legally establish paternity. Therefore, in order to claim any parenting rights or obligations, paternity must be established through the court.

There are several ways in which this can be legally completed in Arizona. If neither parents wish to challenge the paternity of the child, they may chose a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. This is completed and signed by both parents and includes full names of both parents and their child, social security numbers and other sensitive information. The document is notarized and filed with the court. Once processed, the court can issue a consent order which establishes the signed father as the legal father. These are completed consensually by all parties involved and are therefore legally sound. Consent orders are extremely difficult to overturn and may hold up even if the legal father is later found to not be the biological father.

If there is a disagreement about the paternity for any reason or the relationship between the mother and alleged father does not allow for a voluntary agreement to be reached, it is possible for either party to file a petition to establish paternity. Once the petition is filed, the court may order a DNA test be taken by the alleged father and compared with the child’s. If the test results in a 95% or higher likelihood of paternity, the State of Arizona presumes paternity.

Paternity issues can be emotionally and mentally straining. An experienced and thoughtful family law attorney in your area can help you through the process. If you are considering establishing paternity or defending paternity action in Arizona, contact the knowledgeable attorneys at Giordano Spanier & Heckele Law Firm today for a consultation. Call (520) 339-6804 or email [email protected]