For an unwed father in Arizona, ensuring full parental rights can be a challenge. Both parents typically have equal access to their child, but as an unwed father, you’ll first have to verify paternity before being awarded legal rights. Here’s everything you need to know about what rights you have as an unwed father, and how to navigate the family court system.
In Arizona, Legal Parents Start Out as Equals
In Arizona, both parents are assumed to have equal rights to their child, as the state has rewritten their codes to remove any favoritism toward mothers. Instead, Arizona approaches each case by prioritizing the best interests of the child. So while the courts attempt to give both parents equal shots at decision making rights and parenting time, they will also favor one parent or the other if there are factors that would be potentially harmful to the child’s well being, such as a history of abuse or abandonment, drug and alcohol use, or mental illness or instability.
Of course, an unwed father is immediately at a disadvantage over a married father, as an unwed father must first prove paternity in order to be granted any parental rights. There are three ways you can do this in Arizona. If you signed the birth certificate when your child was born, for instance, you’re automatically recognized as the legal father of the child, and can expect to be treated as any married father in the court system.
If you didn’t sign the birth certificate when the child was born, you’ll have to prove now that you are the father. There are a couple of ways to go about doing this. The first and easiest is for the unwed father and mother to both sign a notarized form stating the paternity of the child. If you can’t get the mother to agree to this, all is not lost! You can file a motion with the court and they’ll order a paternity test, and if the mother refuses to cooperate, they’ll issue a default ruling.
Creating a Parenting Plan
Once you’ve established paternity with the courts, you’ll be awarded all of the legal rights of married parents. This means that you’ll be able to bring a custody case to court and create a parenting plan to establish decision-making rights and parenting time. Note, that equal decision-making rights do not always mean equal parenting time. The courts will ultimately rule on the parenting plan based on what is in the best interests of the child.
Unwed Fathers: You’re Not Alone
As an unwed father, you may feel like you have no rights to your child. In fact, Arizona courts want to do everything they can to protect the children’s best interests, and in most cases, this means ensuring kids have the opportunity for relationships with both parents. That’s not to say it’s an easy process, though. There are a lot of steps to the process of establishing your rights as an unwed father, and if the mother fights the proceedings, it can make everything a lot more complicated. Your best chances for success rest on establishing strong representation. To talk to someone who will advocate for your rights as an unwed father, contact the Simon Law Group today.