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Paternity Actions in Arizona
A paternity action is where the court establishes the identity of a father. Often, once paternity is determined, the court will also order child support to be paid, determine the legal decision-making (formerly custody), and parenting time that the parents will share.
Paternity actions are only for unmarried parents of a child. Once a party has filed to establish paternity, then the other party will be served and a hearing date is scheduled. Paternity actions are not paternity tests although a paternity test will be ordered if requested by one of the parties.
Arizona has a public policy that absent evidence to the contrary, it is in a child’s best interest to have both parents participate in decision making about and regularly spend time with the child. The extent of the involvement will depend on the history of the parents’ involvement with the child and whether a parent has any issues that would pose a risk to the child.
Sometimes a father will request that the child be given his last name or a hyphenated last name. While this is certainly a possibility it is not guaranteed. The court will look at the child’s age, the length of time a child has borne his/her current name, the child’s preference, the effect the name change will have on the child, the effect of the name change on the relationship with the parents, and a number of other possible factors.
It is important to remember that child support can be retroactively ordered up to three years. That means that a parent can get child support ordered including a judgment of what the other parent should have paid for the last three years. The court can also order a father to pay a portion of the mother’s medical bills from the pregnancy.
Either a mother or father can bring a paternity action. At Rowley Chapman & Barney, we handle a whole range of situations. Sometimes a couple will have recently broken up and need to establish their roles in their child’s life. Other times a father has been absent or less involved for a long period of time, and the mother needs to establish paternity so that she can receive child support. A common situation we see is one parent preventing the other parent from seeing the child.
We strongly recommend that parents establish paternity and determine legal decision-making, parenting time and child support. Even if you and the other parent are getting along great right now, you never know if the relationship may sour in the future. It is best to be prepared with a clear parenting plan to avoid any issues down the road.
We Can Help You!
If you are struggling with paternity issues, our experienced family law attorneys are here to help you navigate the court system and protect your rights. Call us today.