Paternity refers to the fatherhood of a child. While nature provides that motherhood is rarely in dispute, fatherhood is not always so clear. The issue of who the father of a child is can be a problem for the mother, the father and the child. It can come up in the context of child support, parenting time, custody, inheritance and divorce. Because paternity is such a sensitive topic, having the advice of experienced Arizona paternity lawyers can make sure your rights are protected and the best interests of you and the child are represented.

Establishing Paternity

Under Arizona law, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if he and the mother were married at any time in the 10 months before the birth of the child or the child was born within 10 months after the marriage was terminated. A presumption of paternity may also come from genetic testing, the signature on the birth certificate or a witnessed statement signed by both parents.

When a father or a mother disputes the paternity of a child, contested paternity can be determined by the courts. Establishing a child's paternity will provide not only a biological connection to the child, but also legal, economic and emotional connections between father and child. Establishing paternity may give a father legal rights to raise and care for the child, as well as legal decision-making power. Paternity will also provide medical care, insurance and other benefits for the child, as well as the power to inherit from the father.

In cases of contested paternity in Arizona, genetic testing may be conducted on the child, father and mother. A probability of 95 percent establishes the legal presumption of paternity. If either the mother or the father requests genetic testing, all parties must submit to it. If the genetic testing establishes paternity, the court will enter an order naming the biological father of the child as the legal father.

When a couple is not married, the father may establish paternity through a voluntary acknowledgement form at the hospital when a child is born. They may also file the acknowledgement of paternity with the Arizona Division of Child Support Services (DCSS).

If a mother is unsure who the father is, she may ask the DCSS to contact the possible father, to either identify him as the biological father or exclude him through genetic testing.

The costs of genetic testing will be advanced by the state. If the purported father is shown to be the biological father through genetic testing, he may then become responsible for repaying the costs associated with the genetic tests. He may be able to pay it back through an installment plan.

Paternity Disputes And DNA Testing

Questioning the fatherhood of a child has long existed throughout human history. This may involve a father disputing paternity as a threat to his relationship or it may involve a mother identifying the wrong father. It may even involve an alleged father coming forward after the death of a wealthy mother to benefit from the child's inheritance. Historically, people were unable to accurately test whether a given individual was the biological father of a child. People would rely simply on the looks of the child, including facial features, skin tone, eye color, hair color, height, build and even speech. Unfortunately, these were very inaccurate measures of biological fatherhood.

Even after early progress into the study of genetics by Gregor Mendel in the 1860s, eye color was not entirely useful for determining a child's father. From the 1920s through the 1980s, scientists were able to show a relationship between inheritance and blood types, blood antigens and leukocyte antigens, but these tests were not always accurate or easily available. After the DNA structure was discovered and studied, since the 1990s, DNA testing for paternity has become more universally available and scientifically accepted in the United States.

DNA paternity testing uses the uniqueness of each individual's DNA to establish the likelihood of paternity by comparing the DNA of the mother, father and child. Half of a child's DNA comes from the mother, carried in the egg, and the other half comes from the father, through the sperm. The DNA restriction analysis then looks at the DNA strands for each individual, to create a sort of DNA fingerprint. Comparing the DNA fingerprints of the child and father should establish the probability of paternity.

Paternity And Child Support

One purpose for establishing paternity is to obtain financial support of a child. The court may order the biological father to provide for the reasonable and necessary support of a child or children. In determining the amount of child support, the court will look at the financial resources and needs of the child and custodial parent, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed, the physical, emotional and medical condition of the child, and the financial resources of the noncustodial parent.

While some people may seek a paternity test for the purpose of gaining child support to care for the child, establishing the legal father may also give the father legal rights to custody, parenting time and legal decision-making for the child. This may lead to a long-term connection between the biological mother and father and their families. If both parents are fit, able and interested in participating in the child's life, they may be legally required to share parenting time with the child over the next 18 years until the child reaches adulthood.

Disputing Paternity

In some cases, a father may have doubts about his biological relationship to a child. Although not always an accurate predictor, a father may find suspicion in the physical characteristics of a child. The child's mother may have had multiple sexual partners or even a one-time affair that could put the paternity of the child in doubt. Increasingly, both men and women are ordering paternity tests to prove or disprove fatherhood.

A father may dispute his biological connection to the child, and in many cases, with good reason. One study of 67 men in disputed paternity cases found that as many as 12 of the fathers who admitted paternity were not the actual biological fathers. This led the researchers to suggest ordering blood tests in every case involving a charge of paternity, in the interest of justice.

Call Us Today For Help

At West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman P.L.L.C., we can answer your questions. Our offices are located in Tucson, Arizona. Call us at 520-518-3781 or contact us online.