Divorcing as a couple with children is challenging. However, the situation can be even more fraught when unmarried individuals share a child. As a father, your rights regarding custody, child support, and decision making may be affected by whether or not your name is on the birth certificate. Keep reading to learn more about what rights a father has if he is on the birth certificate and the importance of establishing paternity.
What Happens When You Sign the Birth Certificate?
Signing a child’s birth certificate is a way of acknowledging that you’re the biological and legal father. In other words, a father is agreeing to paternity and committing to provide financial support for the child until the age of 18. However, it’s important to note that agreeing to paternity doesn’t guarantee a father custody or legal decision making. If the mother and father don’t come to an agreement about custody issues, then the court will have to decide how much time each parent has with the child.
In most cases, a paternity test is not required if the father signs the birth certificate. Typically, DNA tests are only ordered in cases when paternity is disputed. In other words, if you’ve already signed the birth certificate it may be difficult to disestablish paternity and avoid paying child support and other costs down the line.
Importance of Establishing Paternity
Establishing paternity is an important part of the process of securing parental rights. When parents are married, they both automatically have the right to make decisions about the child’s medical needs, schooling, and housing. However, when parents are unmarried, the mother is the sole legal authority and has full custody of the child. If the father wants to secure custody or other legal rights, he first needs to establish paternity.
A father can establish presumption of paternity in three ways. First, the court will acknowledge paternity if a DNA test indicates a 95% or higher probability that the man is the father. Second, paternity is presumed if both parents sign the birth certificate. Finally, both parents can sign a witnessed, notarized statement acknowledging that the man is the father.
What Rights Do You Have After Establishing Paternity?
After establishing paternity, a father who isn’t married to the mother of his child enjoys the same rights as a divorced father. Namely, once paternity is secured, a father can petition the court for parenting time and decision-making rights.
It’s important to note that establishing paternity doesn’t guarantee parenting rights. In some cases, the court may determine that a father should not have custody and decision-making rights. Some of the reasons a court may deny a father’s petition include a history of drug or alcohol dependency, abuse, neglect, or being physically incapable of childcare.
In general, however, the state of Arizona aims to establish joint custody due to a belief that it’s in the child’s best interests. Other factors that may affect custody decisions include:
- The existing relationship between parents and child
- The existing relationship between the child and any siblings
- How well a child has adjusted to their home, school, and town
- The wishes of the child
- Whether either parent lied to the court in an attempt to gain custody
Trust JacksonWhite Law to Protect Your Rights
At JacksonWhite, we know nothing is more important to you than your family’s well being. With that in mind, we go above and beyond to protect your right to spend time with your children. Our team will work tirelessly to provide you with top-quality representation throughout your case while trying to minimize conflicts and emotional stress. For more on how we can help, call today or schedule your consultation online.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.
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