In Arizona, you can establish a father’s paternity by having both parents sign an acknowledgement of paternity form in the presence of a witness or notary. You will generally need a photo ID. You may even have been given this form when your baby was born. You don’t even need to have a paternity test done.
Is that enough? It’s enough to get child support started, but you should really do more. You should set up a court order of paternity, too. An acknowledgement of paternity does not automatically give the father legal decision-making authority over the child or the right to parenting time with the child. In order to get those rights, you need a court order of paternity with a parenting order.
It may seem a little silly to ask for a court order of paternity when you have already acknowledged paternity and you plan to parent the child together, but your legal rights are important.
Can we negotiate our parenting order?
Yes. You can agree on joint legal decision-making authority and equal parenting time, for example. This would be the standard legal rights of married parents. Or, you can negotiate a different arrangement that works for you. You should have a lawyer help you or review your proposed order, however, to ensure that you have followed the law.
Having a parenting order in place can be extremely helpful. For example, it can make clear to third parties that the child has two active parents. It can help the father sign up for school activities, where the school may require proof of paternity and a parenting order. It can allow the father to make health care decisions on behalf of the child, as well.
Recently divorced? The rules may be different
If the mother of the child was divorced within 10 months of the child’s birth, her ex-husband may be legally considered the father of the child. This can complicate things when another man is actually the father. If this is the case, you may need more than an acknowledgement of paternity form to have the real father designated.
If there is any dispute about who the real father is, you will need to get a paternity test done. This is relatively inexpensive and easy to perform, but you should discuss it with your attorney before you actually perform the test. You may want to have the test performed by a certain lab, or under circumstances that allow you to make a legal record.
Once a man’s paternity has been established by a court, arrangements for legal decision-making authority and parenting time can be put in place, as well.
Paternity and parenting orders are important facets of your legal life. Be sure to have an attorney help you get them done right.