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Paternity Cases

In Arizona, for a married couple, the husband is presumed to be the father of any child born during the marriage.  When a married couple divorces, the husband is automatically assumed to be the father of the children born to the marriage, unless one of the spouses comes with proof to the contrary.

When an unmarried couple has a child, the mother is the only legal parent when the child is born.  If the father executes and files an acknowledgement of paternity form, then the father becomes the legal parent of the child.  An acknowledgement of paternity has the same legal effect as if a judge entered a finding on the record that the father was the legal parent of the child. 

With an unmarried couples where the father has acknowledged paternity, both parents have an equal say in parenting the child and neither parent may keep the child from the other parent.  Both parents have the right to contribute to the support of the child.  If the parents are not able to co-parent the child by agreement between themselves, either parent can go to court to get orders for parenting time, legal decision-making and child support.  The case filed to make these orders for an unmarried couple is called a Special Paternity Action

For unmarried couples where the father has not acknowledged paternity, the child has only one legal parent, the mother.  If the parents in this situation are not able to agree as to how to parent the child, the father will need to go to court to get the judge to making a finding of paternity and to get orders for parenting time, legal decision-making and child support.

Frequently there will be a situation where the father of the child is on the child’s birth certificate but he has not filed an acknowledgement of paternity and there has not been a finding by the court that he is the legal father of the child.  In that situation, the father is the presumptive father of the child.  If he goes to court with a Special Paternity Action, the father will usually be found to be the father at the first hearing in the case, unless paternity is disputed by one of the parents. 

If the parties in a Special Paternity action do not agree about paternity, the court has the power to order that the parties and the child be subjected to DNA tests to determine paternity.