If you were not married at the time you gave birth, the father of your children has not been legally established under Arizona law. That could make things more difficult for you and your child, especially if your relationship goes sour. Voluntary agreements to provide child support and parent the child are not enforceable if the parties come to disagree. Also, such agreements leave out other legal benefits the child should be entitled to.
Your child deserves a legal father with rights and responsibilities. Here are four reasons why establishing legal paternity is important:
Child support: Under Arizona law, both parents are legally responsible for providing their children with financial support. Being a single parent can be especially hard if you’re not receiving child support from your child’s father. While fathers are responsible to provide support from the time of the baby’s birth, the only way you can enforce that obligation is to obtain an order of paternity and a child support order.
Benefits: Without an order of paternity, your child could be forced to do without many of the legal benefits they should receive through their father. This could include access to the father’s health insurance plan, but it also involves things like Social Security, veterans’ benefits, other insurance benefits and inheritance rights.
Medical history: Your child has the right to know the full medical histories of both parents so they can plan and respond effectively to inherited health problems. It’s also useful to know things like the prevalence of twins in the family, where genetic quirks come from and what the family’s ancestry may be. It’s part of being in a family.
Identity: On top of knowing about their family, kids need to feel like they are part of the family. That includes having their father’s name listed on the birth certificate.
Legal paternity involves DNA test and a straightforward hearing
You may worry that establishing legal paternity is difficult or expensive. In most cases, it takes a simple DNA test. The results take 3-6 weeks. Once the father’s biological identity has been established by DNA, the court will hold a hearing to establish paternity legally.
Does this grant my baby’s father parental decision-making rights and parenting time?
Not automatically, but it’s the first step. An order of paternity allows you to establish child support obligations and allows the father to seek parenting rights, including the right to make decisions over matters of importance and the right to parenting time.
If you haven’t established paternity for your child, they may miss out on legal and financial benefits as well as a sense of belonging to their dad and his family. Also, if you are receiving any state assistance, you will be required to establish paternity.
If you are ready to start the process, contact an experienced family law attorney.