When unmarried parents have a child together, they must establish legal paternity so the father can exercise his right to take part in the child’s life and build a relationship. Doing so also creates the responsibility to provide financial support.

These are the available options for fathers seeking to establish Arizona paternity.

Voluntary acknowledgment

When both parents are sure about the father’s identity, both parents can complete and sign the Arizona Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. They can obtain this document at the birth center or hospital after the birth or from the local Department of Child Support Services or Vital Records office. They must file the signed document with DCSS to request a legal paternity order.

Court hearing

When either or both parents have doubts about the father’s identity, the state Assistant Attorney General’s Office will schedule a hearing. Arizona may also require genetic testing to establish legal paternity. If the test successfully establishes the father’s identity, DCSS will enter a legal paternity order as well as a child support order. Either parent can request a hearing to establish paternity at any point until the child turns 18.

Both the parents and child benefit from the establishment of legal paternity. The unmarried father does not have the legal right to spend time with the child or make decisions on his or her behalf without a paternity order. The mother cannot receive child support or share custody without legal paternity in place. In addition, having a paternity order allows the child to collect certain benefits on behalf of the father, such as Social Security and veteran benefits.