A Paternity Action is a legal matter to determine the parentage of a child, as well as to establish child support, legal decision-making, and parenting time. An unmarried parent has the same right to request legal decision making (custody), parenting time (visitation) and child support as a married individual.

In Arizona, there is a presumption that a child born to a married couple is the legal child of both parents.

For unmarried parents, this presumption can occur if a father is named on the birth certificate, has signed an acknowledgment of paternity, or is determined through genetic testing. Once paternity has been established, the court will address each parent’s rights and responsibilities to the child. The legal decision-making order will determine how important decisions are made for the child-related to non-emergency medical, educational, religion and personal care. The factors to be considered are the same regardless of whether the parties are married.

Payment Plans for Paternity Matters in Arizona

The Court will also order child support utilizing the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. In paternity matters, the Court is permitted to order child support retroactively up to three (3) years if the parents have not been residing together. A payment plan will often be established for retroactive support rather than a requirement to pay a large lump sum.

Do Parents have to be Married for the Father to have Legal Rights to a Child?

No, so long as the unmarried father is listed on the child’s birth certificate or he has executed an acknowledgement of paternity which has been recorded with the Department of Vital Records. If a child is born out of wedlock, a paternity action can be filed to establish full legal rights and obligations. There is no presumption as to who the father of a child is when that child is born unless the mother is married, in which case it is presumed the mother’s husband is the father. When mother and father aren’t married, the unmarried biological father must go to court to seek an order to establish his rights.

How can Paternity be Legally Established?

By filing a paternity action with the court and obtaining a Judgment of Paternity. If the parents agree who the father of the child is, they may obtain a judgment by agreement. However, if the parents do not agree, the court will order DNA testing of the mother, child, and alleged father, in order to conclusively establish whether someone is the father of a child.

Who Typically Files a Paternity Action?

Either a mother or father can file a paternity action. A mother will typically file for paternity in order to obtain child support from the father. A mother is able to obtain both prospective child support, as well as child support owed by the father for the previous three years. A father will file for paternity to obtain parenting time and legal decision-making abilities for the child. Once paternity is established, the court will enter the necessary orders, allocating parenting time, support obligations, and decision-making abilities to both or either parent. Regardless of who files, both parents will be able to obtain the same relief and judgment from the same action. This means that if a mother files for paternity to collect child support, the father will also be able to secure parenting rights, and vice versa.