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Custody rights of unmarried fathers

If you’re married to the mother of your child when he or she is born, you are usually considered the child’s legal father. If you are not married to the child’s mother when he or she is born, there is no guarantee that you can be a part of your son’s or daughter’s life. However, Arizona law may make it possible to obtain visitation or custody rights at some point in the future.

How to establish paternity

The first step to obtaining custody or visitation rights to a son or daughter is to establish paternity. One method of accomplishing this goal is to fill out a form voluntarily acknowledging that you are the child’s father. However, if this is not an option, you can establish paternity by taking a DNA test. A judge may order a DNA test if there are questions as to who a young person’s biological father is.

What happens after you’re declared the legal father?

After a court declares you a child’s legal father, you can request a child custody hearing. At the hearing, a judge will take a closer look at your ability to provide a stable environment for your son or daughter. You may have the opportunity to present witness testimony, statements from a child’s doctor or other evidence to support the assertion that having you as the primary caregiver is in the child’s best interest.

A custody order can be modified at a later date

If you are not granted custody of your child at an initial hearing, it may be possible to receive it at a later date. For instance, a judge may be willing to modify an order after you move closer to the child or after completing a substance abuse program.

An attorney may be able to help you obtain a favorable outcome in a child custody case. In some cases, this may result in having full physical or legal custody of your son or daughter.