In a paternity action, one party initiates the action to establish the biological father as the legal father of a child. This can be done by either the Mother or Father, and can include a claim for child support, legal decision-making (custody), or parenting time. Paternity actions are also filed to add the Father’s name to the child’s birth certificate. A person bringing the action does not have to be a resident of Arizona to bring the action.
A paternity action does not necessarily involve the use of DNA testing, as an acknowledgement of paternity can be sufficient. A father can voluntarily acknowledge paternity of the child or children and the court will then enter a legal finding of paternity; however, a Father cannot later contest paternity if it was previously admitted. Pettit v. Pettit, 218 Ariz. 529, 189 P.3d 1102 (App. 2008).
If a child is born out of wedlock and paternity is not established, the Mother is, by default the legal custodian of the child. This means that the Mother is presumed to have custody of the child unless paternity is established. A.R.S. § 13-1302(B). Arizona’s custodial interference law makes it a criminal violation for a Father, whose paternity has not been established, to exercise parenting time without a court order. A.R.S. § 13-1302(A).
The Berkshire Law Office can guide you through the process of either initiating a Petition for Paternity or responding to a Paternity action brought against you by either the Mother or the State of Arizona. We can also help you file a Counter-Petition to Establish Legal Decision-making of the Child, Parenting Time and Child Support if the State of Arizona (DES) filed for child support.
Be aware that the majority of paternity actions are initiated by the State of Arizona acting in response to a request by the Mother to establish child support. If you are served with a Petition for Paternity, you must act quickly and you should definitely speak with us about your rights in defending against the action and to seek legal decision-making (custody) and parenting time.
If you are a Mother to a child where paternity has never been established, Arizona law also limits the period that you can seek retroactive child support. We can guide you through this process, to ensure that your legal rights and your child’s best interests are protected.