Arizona Child Custody Rights and Unwed Parents

Arizona Child Custody Rights and Unwed Parents

Arizona’s Law, No Proof of Paternity, and Your Custody Rights

Did you know that Arizona courts will not order custody or visitation rights to unmarried, biological fathers unless paternity is proven?  Even a strong parent-child relationship will not give a father access to his child without proof of paternity.

Arizona’s Unmarried Fathers: What happens when I don’t prove I’m the father?

  • The mother can make all decisions pertaining to the well-being of the child without consulting you
  • The mother can relocate, put the child up for adoption, and otherwise prevent you from enjoying a relationship with your child.

Benefits of Paternity Proof for the Mother and Child

Raising a child is expensive, and an unmarried mother is not entitled to child support without proof of paternity. Children are also unlikely to inherit money and other assets from a dad who is not legally recognized as their father.

Given the benefits for the mother, father, and child, many unwed parents bring paternity actions to protect custody, visitation or child care support rights. The Phoenix family law attorneys at Enholm Law PLLC have experience bringing paternity actions on behalf of mothers and fathers.


If you’re a father, being involved in your child’s life or wanting your child’s biological father to contribute support or time will make a difference in your child’s life:

  • 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]
  • 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes. [Center for Disease Control]
  • 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January 1985, p. 28]
  • 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. [National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools]
  • 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. [Rainbows for all God’s Children]
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions have no father. [US Department of Justice, Special Report, Sept. 1988]
  • 85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home. [Fulton County Georgia jail populations, Texas Department of Corrections, 1992]
  • Fatherless boys and girls are: twice as likely to drop out of high school; twice as likely to end up in jail; and four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems. [US D.H.H.S. news release, March 26, 1999]

These sobering statistics show the need for fathers to get involved with their children’s lives, even if they’re not married to the mother.

The Process of Proving Paternity in Arizona

Paternity in Arizona can be established in the following ways:


  • The unwed parents agree that the father is a biological parent
  • Both parties sign paperwork stipulating that the dad fathered the child
  • Both parties agree that they will abide by the results of a paternity test, or they produce a birth certificate signed by both parents.

After properly filing the paperwork with the Superior Court of Arizona, paternity can be established without attending court. Voluntary paternity can also be established with the Department of Health Services or the Department of Economics. If a mother is married within ten months of giving birth or at the time of birth, the husband must give consent for voluntary paternity.

Involuntary Paternity:

  • The unwed parents cannot agree on paternity
  • A  complaint must be filed identifying the male believed to be the father
  • The Superior Court will order DNA testing and presumes that a result of 95% likelihood indicates the person is the father.
  • Once paternity is established, parents can create a parenting plan that indicates an agreed upon parenting schedule, or they can submit parenting plan proposals independently. If needed, the court will finalize a schedule.

Since legal paternity changes your rights and obligations toward your children, it is extremely important to understand the process and ramifications before seeking paternity.

Let the experienced lawyers at Enholm Law help you obtain legal paternity and assist you in securing your child’s future.  Call us at (602) 889-6273 to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case.