What Are the Rights of Unmarried Parents?

Today, many children are born to parents who are not married. While both parents are generally expected to participate in their child’s life, the situation is more complex for those who are unmarried. Some people wonder, what are the rights of unmarried parents? In Arizona, as in many other states, paternity must be established before a parent may be entitled to rights.

The Mother Has Immediate Legal Rights

In cases where the baby’s parents are not married, the mother has, presumptively, the legal rights over the child. The mother is allowed to make decisions for the child, and will provide exclusive care. A father will not be automatically entitled to parenting time with the child..

Establishing Paternity for Unmarried Fathers

In Arizona, there are several ways to establish legal paternity. These include:

  • Voluntarily establish through the court
  • File a court case to request establishment
  • Establish through the Department of Economic Security
  • Automatic establishment through the Department of Health Services

Both parents may sign a document that states known paternity. If a court case is necessary, the father must provide a DNA sample that will be tested against the baby’s DNA. Once proof is provided to the court, the judge will establish paternity and the baby’s birth certificate may be amended to include the father.

Rights and Responsibilities of Parents in Arizona

Parents have rights, but also have responsibilities. A parent is generally allowed to make decisions for their child. Legal decision making rights are usually shared between both parents. Parents share parenting time with a variety of different types of parenting plans. One parent often is responsible for the payment of child support. Support is determined using established guidelines and taking various factors into consideration.

Resolving Paternity Issues for Unmarried Parents

A father’s rights are only provided once paternity is determined. Simply establishing paternity does not guarantee that you will be provided with parenting time and decision-making rights. These issues need to be worked out between parties and should become part of a court order. This ensures that your rights cannot be easily taken away.

Paternity matters are often very complicated. It is helpful to get help from a knowledgeable family law attorney. Call the lawyers at Udall Shumway PLC to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding The Rights of Unmarried Parents, or any other family law issue, please feel free to contact Sheri D. Shepard at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.