Whether you are a father who wants to obtain visitation rights with your child or a mother seeking financial support after a relationship ends, the first step is establishing legal paternity. Once the court determines a legal father, orders for custody and support can follow.
Read on to learn more about the process for establishing paternity in Arizona.
Acknowledgment of paternity
This form is available at the hospital after your baby is born. If both parents agree on paternity, they may sign this document to establish legal fatherhood. After birth, both parents can sign a Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity at any Division of Child Support Services office and submit to the local court or vital records office.
When either parent has doubts about paternity, he or she can petition the court for a DNA test. The Assistant Attorney General’s Office will order genetic testing. If DNA determines fatherhood, either parent can request a hearing to create a child custody and/or child support order. You can request a court order to determine paternity before the child’s birth or any time up until his or her 18th birthday.
Effects of paternity determination
Establishing paternity has significant benefits for the child as well as both parents:
- The ability to have regular contact and a supportive relationship with both parents
- Financial support from both parents
- Access to the father’s government benefits such as Social Security and veteran’s pension where applicable
- The ability for both parents to make important decisions about their child’s upbringing
- A sense of family and identity
Upon paternity determination, the court can order the father to pay retroactive child support for up to three years. He may also be responsible for the costs of the birth and pregnancy, genetic testing and court costs. For this reason, the best course of action is to sign an acknowledgment of paternity as soon as both parents are sure about the father’s identity.