Many men in Arizona become fathers without marrying the mothers of their children. Currently, 40 percent of all children born come from unwed parents. Men who are not married to the mothers should take specific steps to establish their legal rights as parents. Although family courts might display favoritism toward mothers, unmarried dads have the same legal rights as married fathers. Men can easily establish their paternity by making sure that they are named as fathers when hospitals issue birth certificates.
When this does not happen, men could complete a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form unless mothers dispute paternity. In that situation, men could approach a child support enforcement agency or petition a court for access to a paternity test. Positive test results create the legal status of the father.
With paternity comes rights to child custody and visitation. For men not living with their children’s mothers, they can petition a court for child custody. Generally, men seek joint or shared custody unless the mothers are unfit to raise children. An unfit mother could qualify a father to pursue full custody.
Paternity also creates the financial obligation of child support. Men have the option of developing support agreements with mothers. Courts might also impose and enforce payment obligations.
A person who has concerns about access to a child could talk to an attorney familiar with fathers’ rights. A legal evaluation of the situation could inform the client about parental rights and how to pursue custody or visitation. An attorney could collect documentation showing paternity along with financial records that show the client has the ability to provide sufficiently for a child. Legal representation might also help a father challenge a mother who wants to prevent a father from seeing children.