If you and your child’s other parent were never married, Arizona’s paternity laws are in place to ensure your child receives the support and care he deserves from both parents. Mothers can use the power of the law to force an absentee father to provide for the needs of their children in common. Arizona’s paternity laws help a father gain more control in the lives of his children when the mother is limiting his involvement.
Frequently, the parties agree as to the identity of the father. If there is a question as to the paternity of the child, either party can request (and the court will order) a DNA test for confirmation. Once confirmation has been received, a judge will proceed with determining the issues in conflict which could be child custody, parenting time and/or child support, depending on what has been filed.
In some cases, the State of Arizona is the party to initiate paternity proceedings against a father. It is quite common under those circumstances that the only matters “at issue” are (a) the identity of the father and (b) (if the identity is confirmed) the amount of child support per month that father must pay.
If you are a father and you have been served with paternity paperwork from the State of Arizona, remember that you must file your own request for legal decision making authority (formerly custody) and parenting time should those things be important to you. If you do not file a petition for legal decision making authority and parenting time, at the end of the court proceedings, you will have a child support obligation, but you will not have any other rights to go along with that obligation.
If you are a mother who has been supporting your children on your own, there are resources at your fingertips. By contacting the Department of Economic Security, you can request the State’s involvement in locating the father of your children and initiating paternity proceedings. An attorney will be assigned to represent the State of Arizona in your case. Although that attorney will not represent you personally, that attorney will advocate for the proper amount of child support under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines to meet your children’s needs.
Until paternity and legal decision making rights have been established, a mother has nearly unlimited authority to act on behalf of her children. A mother can make all educational, medical, religious and personal care decisions. A mother can relocate. A mother can decide whether or not to allow the father into the children’s lives.