Establishing paternity in Arizona can be done voluntarily with the assistance of the state’s Department of Child Support Services or by a court order, and the path taken is determined by the father’s willingness to participate in the process. Fathers who wish to play an active role in their children’s lives are unlikely to raise objections because paternity must be established before a court will grant them custody or visitation rights, but others who want to avoid paying child support could be reluctant to sign papers that would leave them financially responsible.
Establishing paternity voluntarily
The DCSS has put the Hospital Paternity Program into place to make it easier for unmarried couples to establish paternity when their children are born. This can usually be accomplished in a matter of minutes by obtaining and signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form, which are available at all birthing centers and hospitals in Arizona. Once this is done, hospital staff countersign the form and submit it to the DCSS. If paternity is not established at a hospital, parents can obtain the form from a DCSS office or download it from the DCSS website. Once the form is completed, signed and notarized, it should be filed with the court or a Vital records Office to complete the process and add the father’s name to the child’s birth certificate.
When an alleged father refuses to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form and the parents become embroiled in a dispute, the DCSS refers the case to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. A court hearing is then scheduled to establish paternity. Both the mother and alleged father are given an opportunity to speak and present evidence at a paternity hearing, but judges tend to base these decisions on the results of court-ordered genetic testing.
Retroactive child support
Refusing to participate in the paternity process can be an expensive mistake. This is because paternity can be established with near scientific certainty by DNA testing, and Arizona law allows child support to be ordered retroactively. Paternity can also be established at any time before the child reaches the age of 18.