What Rights Does an Unmarried Mother Have in Arizona?

Unmarried mothers' rights.

What Rights Does an Unmarried Mother Have in Arizona?

In the state of Arizona, when a child is born to married parents, both parents are presumed to be the legal parents of the child, affording them full and equal rights regarding the legal decision-making (custody) of the child. But what happens if a child is born to an unmarried mother?

In Arizona, unmarried mothers are automatically awarded full legal decision-making of their child unless paternity of the child has been established. If paternity has not been established, the mother does not have to consult the biological father about anything and has full authority to:

  • Put the child up for adoption.
  • Prohibit the biological father from being in the child’s life.
  • Relocate with the child to wherever the mother would like to.
  • Make any and all other decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

Important to note is that mothers cannot request child support from a father if his paternity has not been established.

What Happens if the Biological Father Establishes Paternity?

Once paternity of the child is established, the father is able to petition for legal decision-making rights. Paternity can be established in the following ways:

  • Voluntary Acknowledgment – The biological father signs an affidavit acknowledging paternity, allowing for a new birth certificate to be issued listing the names of both parents.
  • DNA Testing – Genetic testing showing a person is at least 95% likely to be the biological father can be sent to the court to have them establish legal paternity.
  • Petitioning through the Court – The biological father can petition to have DNA testing ordered or for a Declaratory Judgement of Paternity.

If the biological father’s paternity is established, he will be able to petition for legal decision-making rights. At this point, if the parents remain unmarried and living separately, they will need to work through the court to establish their legal decision-making, parenting time plans, and child support amounts. Courts prefer to award joint legal decision-making, as this is often in the best interest of the child unless one parent can prove otherwise.

How Does this Apply to Same-Sex Couples?

Following a 2017 ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court, married couples of the same sex are also afforded these same rights of paternity laws.

Rideout Law Group handles cases throughout the entire state of Arizona, with offices located in Scottsdale and Lake Havasu City. Our attorneys are experienced in handling family law cases. For a free consultation, call 480-584-3328.

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