Most fathers don't realize that if they were not married to the mother of their child, they may not have legal rights as a parent. Paternity for the unmarried father can only be proven through DNA testing, blood testing, or the parties can also sign a Voluntarily Acknowledgment of Paternity in accordance with Arizona Revised Statute § 25-812 (often in the hospital at the time of the child's birth). Once filed with the Court, the Acknowledgment establishes paternity.
Only when paternity has been established may the father seek custody rights in the form of a parenting plan just as if the couple were married. When a child is born to an unmarried mother and the father refuses to financially contribute to the care and support of the child, there is no way for her to force him to do so. Therefore, the mother may need to file a paternity action and ask a judge for an order requiring the father to pay child support and share in the expenses relating to the child. Once paternity has been legally established, the court can order the father to pay child support and expenses. The court cannot give the mother a judgment for past support and expenses that the father had refused to pay.
With the advent of paternity testing, a court can now establish parentage in a relatively quick and easy procedure. The father can either submit to a paternity test, or a court order can be obtained to compel the ostensible father to take the test. Today's test results are accurate and nearly indisputable proof of parentage.
A married man is the legally presumed father when a child is conceived during the marriage even if he may not be the biological father of the child. This presumption may be rebutted by DNA testing, however most courts require that an attempt to disprove paternity be initiated within a reasonable period of time after the birth of the child.
Contact McKay Law for a free consultation concerning any questions you have concerning paternity. We are ready, willing, and able to help.