Who’s Your Daddy? Arizona Paternity and Maternity Proceedings
Establishing paternity or maternity in Arizona is governed by A.R.S. §25-807. This statute identifies the procedure for an alleged father to establish paternity, or to defend against a paternity action. Likewise, a mother may request the establishment of paternity, in order to obtain financial support for her child or children.
The Basics of 25-807
Parents who wish to file a petition to establish paternity should know two things. First, a paternity proceeding takes priority over all other civil matters. Any other proceedings take a back seat to the paternity proceeding. However, any delay in other legal actions are not indefinite because secondly, a paternity proceeding must be set for trial within sixty days from the filing of a response or answer. The goal is to enter a paternity determination as soon as possible and eliminate uncertainty.
In the case of a mother who is pregnant with a child conceived during the relationship/marriage, but the husband or boyfriend claims he is not the biological father, testing may be delayed until the child is born. Such testing may be delayed at the request of either mother or father. While it is possible to test the blood of a pregnant mother for the purposes of paternity determination – a noninvasive procedure, the court may still grant a delay upon the request of either party.
Who Takes the Test and who pays the bill?
Either party to a paternity proceeding may request both alleged parents, and the child or children, undergo testing. Men who have a good faith belief they are not the biological fathers of children conceived during a marriage or relationship may request paternity testing in order to determine paternity. The court will determine who will be tested, as well as who will pay for the testing with an accredited laboratory. After testing and the evaluation of the results, the court may order one party to pay the testing fee, or apportion the fee between the parties.
Evaluating Test Results
If the parties in a paternity proceeding agree, they may stipulate as to the expert used to evaluate test results and submit a final report to the court. Often, a couple in a dispute about a child’s paternity will not agree on an expert and, in that case, the court has the power to appoint an expert. The parties’ lawyers should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of stipulating to an expert or relying on the appointment by the court.
Standards of Proof
When a test results reveals a 95% or greater probability that a man is a child’s biological father, the father can only overcome that finding by “clear and convincing evidence.” That’s quite an obstacle to get beyond. Recently, a father in a paternity proceeding attempted to establish clear and convincing evidence by challenging the laboratory’s chain of custody. The Arizona Court of Appeals denied that defense. The Court of Appeals stated the father had not challenged paternity during the divorce proceedings with mother, and had acknowledged paternity in several documents, and therefore he was barred from raising a later challenge.
Establishing paternity is not solely for mothers seeking child support. Establishing paternity can help fathers who want to establish a legal and personal relationship with their biological children. For assistance in either establishing paternity or defending a paternity proceeding, contact us today at 480-649-2905.