Many Arizona fathers may be concerned about their rights to their children, especially if they are not married to the mother and never were. In many cases, unmarried fathers remain in a committed partnership with the mother of the child; they simply choose not to marry. Statistics show that around 40% of all kids are born to parents that are not married. In other cases, the parents have ended their romantic relationship but co-parent the child like a divorced couple. However, when no marriage exists, fathers may have to take additional steps in order to protect their rights and ensure that the parent-child relationship is enshrined in law.
When the parents of a child are not married, paternity must be legally established. This is true even when both parents are in a long-term relationship, live together and share a home. In most cases like this, the father’s name will be placed on the birth certificate from the very beginning by the mother when she fills out paperwork. A father can also file a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity in case the information is not included in the birth certificate for some reasons. When the parents’ relationship is more contested, the mother may reject the claim of paternity. A paternity test can clearly establish the father’s identity.
If the parents are raising the child together, child support and custody are not factors. However, if the parents separate, these issues will need to be addressed, just as they would be for a divorcing couple. Both fathers and mothers have equal rights to custody of the children.
Unmarried fathers have meaningful rights to spend time with, care for and see their children. A family law attorney can help fathers to ensure their paternity is recognized and fight for the child custody that they deserve.