Establishing Paternity in Arizona
Paternity is the legal identification of a child’s father. It is used to decide issues of legal decision-making (what used to be called custody), parenting time, and child support, as well as other issues such as inheritance rights.
Under Arizona Revised Statutes 25-814, a man is presumed to be a child’s father if any of the following are true:
- He and the child’s mother signed the child’s birth certificate.
- He was married to the child’s mother at any time during the ten months before the child’s birth.
- He was married to the child’s mother and the child was born within ten months of the marriage’s termination.
If none of these conditions hold, or if another man claims to be the child’s father, paternity will need to be established through the courts.
Who Can File a Paternity Petition in Arizona?
In Arizona, either the mother or the putative father can initiate paternity proceedings. In addition, the guardian, conservator, or best friend (an individual granted by a court the right to file lawsuits on behalf of a child) of a child born out of wedlock may file a paternity suit. Finally, a public welfare official or agency or the state itself may file a paternity petition, depending on the circumstances.
In addition to requirements on who can file a paternity petition, the state has requirements determining whether the petition can be filed in Arizona, i.e., whether the state has jurisdiction. A petition to establish paternity, parenting time, legal decision-making, and child support can be filed in Arizona if any of the following are true about the other parent (or putative parent):
- The parent is a resident of Arizona.
- You personally serve the other parent in Arizona.
- The parent agrees to have the case heard in Arizona and files written papers in the court case.
- The parent lived with the child in Arizona at some time.
- The parent lived in Arizona and provided pre-birth expenses or support for the child.
- The child lives in Arizona as a result of the acts or directions of the person.
- The parent had intercourse in Arizona that may have resulted in the child being conceived.
- The parent signed a birth certificate that is filed in Arizona.
- The parent did any other act that substantially connects them with Arizona.
What is the Process for Establishing Paternity?
To establish legal paternity, one parent (or another entity, as described above) files a Petition for Paternity with the court. In it, the Petitioner lays out his or her claim that the man named in the Petition is the father of the named child or children.
The Petition also includes claims regarding:
- Why the court has jurisdiction to determine paternity (as listed above).
- Why the petitioner thinks that the alleged father is the child(ren)’s father.
- The mother’s marital status at the time the child(ren) was born or conceived.
In addition, the Petition allows the Petitioner to make requests of the court regarding the child(ren)’s birth certificate and surname, legal decision-making and parenting time, child support, tax exemptions, and other issues.
Along with the Petition for Paternity, the Petitioner files an Affadavit Re: Minor Children, giving additional information about the child or children involved, and several other forms required by the court.
Once the Petition for Paternity and other paperwork has been filed with the court, copies must be served on the Respondent. The Respondent then has 20 calendar days (if s/he lives in Arizona) or 30 calendars (if s/he lives outside Arizona) to respond to the Petition.
The Respondent has three choices for how to respond to the Petition:
- Do nothing.
- Admit paternity and reach an agreement with the other parent regarding legal decision-making, parenting time, child support, and any other issues raised in the Petition.
- File a written response stating disagreement with the Petition.
If the Respondent does nothing (or fails to respond within the allocated time), the Petitioner can ask the court for a default judgment and the court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child.
What Happens if the Respondent Does Not Agree with the Petition?
If the Respondent contests any of the claims in the Petition, s/he files a Response to Petition for Paternity. This form allows the Respondent to make his or her own claims about the child(ren)’s paternity and to make his or her own requests to the court regarding legal decision-making, parenting time, etc.
As with the Petition for Paternity, the Response must be filed with the court along with other forms and must also be delivered to the Petitioner.
If the Respondent files a Response to Petition for Paternity within the allocated timeframe, one party or the other must file a Motion to Set, requesting a trial date, or take other action to move the case forward. If neither party takes action for six months, the court will dismiss the case.
Once the Response is filed, either party may request that the court issue temporary orders to be in effect during the testing and trial process.
If paternity is contested, the court may order that the mother, child(ren), and alleged father submit to genetic testing. If the results of the genetic tests indicate that the likelihood of the alleged father’s paternity is ninety-five percent or greater, the alleged father is presumed to be the parent of the child. Depending on the results of the test, the court will order one party or the other to pay for the testing.
Pursuant to Arizona law, both parties involved in a paternity proceeding where the court has been requested to establish legal decision-making, parenting time, or child support are required to attend a parent education program. The deadline for completing this program is 45 days after receiving the court order notifying of this requirement.
What Happens After Paternity is Established?
Once the court establishes the legal paternity of a child, it will enter orders concerning legal
decision-making, parenting time, and child support. The parents may agree on these issues, in which case they can work together to write a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan is a proposal for the judge that includes how you and the other parent will act in the best interests of the child.
If the father’s name is not listed on the birth certificate, a new birth certificate listing him as the legal father will be issued. The child(ren)’s surname may also be legally changed, depending on the requests that were made in the Petition for Paternity and the Response.
Establishing Paternity Without Legal Decision-making
Paternity may also be established in a case in which legal decision-making, child support, etc. are not relevant. For example, an adult may wish to legally establish his or her biological father.
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