While paternity is presumed for married couples, unmarried couples may need to formally establish paternity in Arizona. If you are an unmarried parent, you can establish paternity with an acknowledgment of paternity. What is an acknowledgment of paternity and how do you complete one? Here’s what you need to know.
This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
What is an acknowledgment of paternity?
An acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) is a legal document that establishes the legal father of a child (Title 25-812). There is no need to establish paternity in Arizona when parents are married or the father is listed on the birth certificate, but for unwed parents who have not listed the father on the child’s birth certificate, completing this form can solidify the legal rights for both parents and children.
Completing an acknowledgment of paternity between cooperative parents is an easy process.
Parents who dispute the paternity of a child, and are generally uncooperative in resolving this dispute, will likely need to go through additional steps, as discussed later in this post.
What are the benefits of signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity?
Completing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity helps insure certain rights and benefits between a father and his children. This acknowledgment solidifies legal and economic ties, especially during contentious matters.
These can translate to real benefits for the child. When an acknowledgment of paternity is completed, it may be easier for the child to receive assets from an inheritance or access to the father’s benefits, such as:
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
- Social Security benefits
- Veteran’s benefits
Parenting time, legal decision-making, and child support
Parents who are not living together will need to come to an agreement about how much time the child will spend with each parent. Weekends, holidays, and school breaks are generally part of this discussion. Separated parents also have to make decisions about a child’s healthcare, religious training, education, and more. Together, these are known as parenting time and legal decision-making.
An acknowledgment of paternity can help solidify a father’s legal rights when it comes to parenting time and legal decision-making.
In other cases, including those involving domestic violence, it can help establish a parent’s role and obligation in paying child support, as handled by the Division of Child Support Services, before being resolved in court.
An acknowledgment of paternity is an additional legal record that can uphold a father’s right to be involved in the parenting process. However, a judicial finding of paternity is typically established in addition to this acknowledgment of paternity if a case goes to court over matters related to parenting time and legal decision-making.
How do you complete an acknowledgment of paternity in Arizona?
Acknowledgment of paternity in Arizona can be different depending on whether the acknowledgment is voluntary or involuntary.
Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity
Parents can complete a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity until a child is 18.
To do this, parents complete and sign a CS-127 “Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity” form. This form simply states who the father of a child is. Both parents must sign the Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. Someone not related to either parent must witness the signing or it must be notarized.
The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) at the Arizona Department of Economic Security accepts completed CS-127 forms at any of their offices. This process can also be completed through the Hospital Paternity Program (HPP) directly after the child is born. Parents can submit the form at any other time until the child is 18.
The Office of Vital Records keeps copies of the acknowledgment of paternity on file.
How can you establish paternity in Arizona?
If either parent challenges paternity, paternity can be established through a voluntary DNA test or court-ordered DNA testing. These are the steps to do so:
- Either parent may ask for genetic testing at any DCSS location
- If a parent is unwilling to undergo testing, the courts can order the parent (and the child) to undergo genetic testing
- If the results are 95% or better matching the father to the child, DCSS will send the results to the parents and the court
- DCSS requests an Order of Paternity before involving itself in child support proceedings
In some cases, the State of Arizona pays for genetic testing in advance. If the results confirm paternity, the biological father pays the testing fee back. When genetic testing confirms the father of a child, the court will establish paternity. It does not have to be voluntary.
What happens if parents disagree with established paternity?
Parents can rescind a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity if done within 60 days.
Likewise, under certain circumstances, it can be challenged after a 60-day period. For example, one party may feel like they were forced to sign the document. Or, they may want to challenge the genetic testing results.
After 60 days, the person who challenges the acknowledgment of paternity has an opportunity to prove their case in court. Any child support ordered must continue to be paid until the court resolves both the issue of paternity and the child support award.
Establishing paternity in Arizona may become difficult in some cases. Parents who are not able to communicate with each other may find working through the courts the best option.
In these cases, the court will typically order the parties to participate in genetic paternity testing (in addition to an acknowledgment of paternity) for matters related to:
- Child support
- Division of parenting time
- Other rights and responsibilities of legal parents
At the Arizona Legal Center, we offer free legal aid to help guide unmarried parents through this process. Each family’s situation is unique. Consulting with the Arizona Legal Center can help you find answers to your questions. Give us a call today!
The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.