Question: I’m about to have a baby with a woman that I am not married to. What are my rights as a Father?
Answer: Until you establish Paternity, you don’t have any parental rights. When a child is born to an un-wed mother, paternity is not automatically established and the mother is deemed the legal custodial parent. You are at risk of being charged with custodial interference and you must work to establish paternity.
There are several ways you can establish paternity:
A Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, signed by both parents, can be filed with the court or an administrative agency to establish legal parentage.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity forms are available at all hospitals and birthing centers for unwed parents to complete and sign after their child is born. The Acknowledgment of Paternity is also available at all Vital Records offices.
Once the voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is signed, it is filed with both the DCSS Hospital Paternity Program and the Office of Vital Records establishing paternity. If the child was born in Arizona, the birth certificate is amended to include the father’s name. If the child was born in another state, a copy of the Acknowledgment of Paternity is sent to the other state’s Vital Records Agency.
The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) offers a voluntary process in which unwed parents may come into a local DCSS office and open a case to establish paternity and child support. The voluntary administrative process is available to children born in Arizona as well as children born in another state. The Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity is signed by both parents and filed by DCSS through the Hospital Paternity Program (HPP) to establish paternity.
If there is a question regarding paternity, either parent may choose to have genetic testing done. Genetic Testing can be conducted in the local DCSS office and if the results or 95% or greater, DCSS will submit the results along with a Request for an Order of Paternity to the court. A copy of the Order of Paternity will be sent to the parents.
If one party is uncooperative in establishing paternity on a case opened with DCSS, the case may be referred to the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for a court hearing to establish paternity and a child support order.
Unwed Parent’s may choose to go through the Arizona court system to resolve any issues and establish paternity and a child support order without the involvement of DCSS. This choice may involve attorney fees, court costs and filing fees.
After paternity is determined the next step will be to get into a parenting class. These classes are designed to teach:
- What parents can do to help their child adjust to the divorce or separation
- Emotional effects of divorce or separation on parents and their child
- Harmful effects of parental conflict on children, including domestic violence
- Ways parents can reduce parental conflict
- Avoiding and dealing with problems
- Factors that contribute to a child’s healthy adjustment, including the value of parenting plans
- Domestic relations court procedures and available community resources
- Common reactions by children and parents to divorce or other legal proceedings between the parents such as paternity
- Helpful and harmful parent behaviors
- Communication and co-parenting skills
- Children’s reactions to divorce and separation at different stages
- Warning signs of children having serious problems
- Emotional and financial responsibility of parents
Creating a Parenting Plan
A parenting plan allows the parents to schedule time with the child whether it be holidays, weekends, birthdays etc.
Legal Decision Making (formally legal custody)
Is having the legal right and responsibility to make all nonemergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions.
The court could decide on joint legal decision-making where both parents have a say in the matters above. They could also decide on sole legal decision-making where only one parent has a say in the above matters.
The court takes the information given to them by the parents to determine how much each parent must contribute financially. They use the Arizona Child Support Calculator. The link is below.
If you have additional questions or need help establishing paternity, give us a call for a free consultation.