Legal paternity may seem like a cut-and-dry determination, but in reality, it can be anything but. Determining paternity, particularly during a divorce, is an important factor in child custody and child support settlements.
In the state of Arizona, there is more than one way to determine legal paternity.
What is the difference between biological and legal paternity?
A biological father is a man who contributed half of a child`s genetic material. The legal father is the man the law recognizes as the father of the child. The legal father may not be the biological father.
How is legal paternity established in Arizona?
When a married couple has a child, Arizona law automatically assumes that the husband is the legal father. If an unmarried woman gives birth the state requires an official act to determine legal paternity.
One such act is if the mother and the alleged father ask the court to make an official declaration that he is the child`s legal father.
Another way Arizona determines paternity is if a man signs an acknowledgment of paternity form. This form creates an irreversible establishment of parental rights and responsibilities, even if a subsequent DNA test shows no biological relation.
A third way to establish paternity is by genetic testing, which can create a legal presumption of paternity if the test results show a 99%+ match.
Why is legal paternity important?
Until you establish legal paternity, a man has no enforceable parental rights to custody or visitation. The mother may allow or withhold visitation as she chooses.
Establishing legal paternity allows a father to have visitation and custody rights regarding his child, and allows the mother to receive child support for her child.