We Were Never Married But Have Kids
Arizona law gives moms default custody of kids who were born to parents who were not married at the time of there birth. Even if Dad’s name is on the birth certificate or paternity was established through a IV-D child support action brought by the Department of Economic Security, in order to establish Legal Decision Making Authority and Parenting Time, there needs to be a Paternity Action.
Either Mom or Dad can file for Paternity. The Petition for Paternity is very simple and just says, “this is who Mom is, this is who Dad is, this is who the child or children are, this is why I think Dad is Dad, and this is what I think Legal Decision Making Authority and Parenting Time should look like.” Once the Petition has been filed it needs to be served on the other parent, and the person filing should request a hearing before the Judge.
At the hearing the Judge will try to establish Paternity. This can happen when Dad states that he is dad, when there is a birth certificate stating Dad is Dad, or after a DNA paternity test. Once Paternity is established, the Judge can decide what legal decision making authority and parenting time will look like and will determine child support, at least temporarily.
In Pima County the Judge will send the parents to the Conciliation Court to work out a Parenting Plan in mediation. If the parents are unable to come to an agreement, the process goes forward very much like a divorce, with an opportunity for the parents to gather evidence and witnesses, a Motion to Set and Certificate of Readiness if the Judge hasn’t already set deadlines, a date to file a Pretrial Statement, a settlement conference and a trial if settlement isn’t successful.
Just like where there is a marriage, the parents are tied together because of their child. And the Court will always look at the situation from the perspective of what is in the best interests of the child – and in most cases this is that the child have as much contact with both parents as possible