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 the child is can be a problem for the mother, the father, and even 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 represent the best interests of yourself and the child.
Under Arizona law, a man is presumed to be the father of the child if he and the mother were married at any time in the ten months before the birth of the child, or within 10 months after the marriage is 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 the biological connection between the child, but it can also implicate legal, economic and emotional connections between father and child. Establishing paternity may give a father legal rights for raising the child, caring for the child, and legal decision making powers. Paternity will also provide rights for the child, including medical, insurance, and other benefits, 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. The test will establish a probability of paternity. A probability of 95 percent establishes the legal presumption of paternity. If either the mother or the father of the child requests genetic testing, all parties must submit to testing. 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, at the time 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 of who the father is, she may contact the DCSS to contact the possible father, to either identify the man as the biological father, or exclude the man through genetic testing.
The costs of genetic testing will be advanced by the State of Arizona. If the purported father is shown to be the biological father through genetic testing, he may then become responsible for repayment of the costs associated with the genetic tests. The father may have the option to pay back the state 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 the 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 utilizes 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 will then look at the DNA strands for each individual, to create a sort of DNA fingerprint. Comparing the DNA fingerprints of the child and father should be able to establish the probability of paternity.
Paternity and Child Support
On purpose for establishing paternity is for financial support of a child that may be difficult to provide for based on a single parent's income. 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 for 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, both parents may be legally required to share parenting time with the child over the next 18 years until the child reaches adulthood.
In some cases, a father may have doubts about their 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 their 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.