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Unmarried fathers’ custody rights

Increasing numbers of children in Arizona are born to unmarried parents each year, which creates unique legal challenges for unmarried fathers. Often, the rights and privileges associated with unmarried fatherhood are unclear or poorly understood. Arizona law sets clear guidelines for fathers’ custody rights in situations in which they are not legally married. Here is what the law says.

Father’s rights under Arizona law

Arizona family law has a process for determining unmarried fathers’ decision-making authority and parenting time. In cases in which there is no legal father, and the mother is unmarried, she retains full authority to make decisions for her child as well as have full custody.

Basically, the default position of the state is that an unmarried mother maintains full custody and rights over the child until a court intervenes to say otherwise.

The path forward for unmarried men

However, that doesn’t mean that unmarried fathers in Arizona have no rights. It just means that they must first establish paternity in the eyes of the court to gain shared or full custody of the child and decision-making authority.

This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. If the mother disputes the father’s identity, this may include the man taking a paternity test to prove genetically his claim to fatherhood. After paternity is clearly established, the next step is to file a petition with the court to gain custody of his child.

The ultimate decision is up to the courts

Ultimately, the court is responsible for rendering decisions regarding child custody and parenting time in cases in which the issue is in dispute. Therefore, if you’re a concerned parent, having an experienced, hard-working attorney on your side is the best way to ensure that you get the outcome you want.

Although the process is more complicated than in cases of children born to married couples, unmarried fathers can gain decision-making authority and custody of their children. The first step is to know what the law says and, if necessary, enlist the help of an experienced attorney to guide them through the process.