If you are an unwed father and you find yourself breaking up with your partner, there are a few things you need to do right away for the sake of your relationship with your child. In Arizona, mothers and fathers are viewed as starting out with equal rights to their children, but first you must be legally recognized as the father. Here are three things you must do as soon as possible to protect your rights as an unwed father.
The first and foremost thing an unwed father needs to do is to establish paternity if it isn’t already. If you’re lucky, you may have signed the birth certificate when the child was born, establishing yourself as the father. If you aren’t on the birth certificate, you will need to establish paternity another way. One way is if both you and the mother sign an acknowledgment of paternity. If you are unable to get the mother to sign this form, however, your only option may be to petition the court to establish paternity. Once you file the petition, the court will order paternity testing. If the mother refuses to comply with the court order for paternity testing, the judge can enter a default order of paternity.
Get a Child Custody Order
Once paternity is established, the next step is to get a custody order in place. A custody order protects your continued relationship with your child by establishing your rights to make parenting decisions and spend time with your child. You’ll also need a parenting agreement, which lays out everything from how you will make decisions about health care and education, to a schedule of what time the child will spend with each parent. Ideally you’ll be able to set the parenting agreement up yourselves, with the help of your lawyers and/or mediators, as the two of you know your situations and your child better than anyone else, making you the best equipped to make the necessary decisions. If you can’t come to an agreement, however, the court will hear both sides and then make a decision for you.
Find a Lawyer
While everything so far can be done without the help of a lawyer, there are many missteps and pitfalls along the way if you don’t have the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. Having a lawyer on your side can make establishing paternity faster and easier, since your attorney knows the process. A lawyer can assist you in negotiations, hopefully removing one of the biggest sources of conflict in a breakup and custody battle. A lawyer can also help make sure your parenting agreement is thorough and that everything in it is watertight, preventing conflicts from arising based on miscommunication or misunderstandings in the agreement.
Most likely you’re going through a major upheaval in your life right now, if you’re breaking up or have just broken up with your partner, so it may be difficult to shift your focus to protecting your long-term relationship with your child. Getting a lawyer will help you pursue your parental rights during this challenging time. For a consultation of your case, contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today.