What Paternity Rights Exist if I Wasn’t Married to Mother?

While married parents have equal rights to their children if they decide to get divorced, this is not the same for unwed parents. If you were not married to the mother, you may not have any paternity rights until you do one of two things.

Basic Rule

Arizona family courts do not order decision-making or parenting time (previously known as custody or visitation rights) to unmarried fathers until paternity is proven. Even if the father has been involved in the child’s life and has an established relationship with his child, paternity must first be established.

Ways to Establish Paternity

There are a number of ways to establish paternity in Arizona. For example, both parents may sign legal paperwork acknowledging that the man is the biological father of the child. The parents may mutually agree that the man is the father. The father may sign the birth certificate. They may also agree to paternity if a paternity test is taken and the results indicate this is the case.

If the parents do not agree on paternity, the father may have to petition the court to establish paternity. The Superior Court can order a DNA test that establishes the child’s paternity.

Risks of Not Establishing Paternity

If a father thinks that establishing paternity is a hassle or an intimidating process, he may be adversely affected by avoiding this legal avenue. The mother has all rights pertaining to the child, including the right to restrict the child’s access to the father, the right to move away, and the right to make decisions related to the child’s well-being without consulting the father. This means that all decisions are made on the whim of the mother.

Mothers do not have the right to child support until paternity has been established. If the father happens to die before paternity is acknowledged, the child may not have a right to inherit the father’s property if he did not leave a valid will.

Once the parents establish paternity, they can then work on creating a parenting plan together to indicate the time the child will have with each parent separately.

Contact an Arizona Family Law Lawyer

If you have questions about your paternity rights, contact an experienced Arizona family law lawyer. He or she can explain what options are available to you and advise you with possible courses of action. Contact Udall Shumway at 480.461.5300 to schedule a confidential consultation with a seasoned family law attorney.


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 Paternity Rights, or any other family law issue, please feel free to contact Steven H. Everts 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.