Parents have a right to a relationship with their children, and many times this right is enforced via state laws. Fathers in the state of Arizona have this same right just as children have a right to a relationship with both their mother and father. Arizona state law has also been established to help foster the parent/child relationship, and courts are instructed to not interfere in this relationship unless absolutely necessary, such as when there are accusations of violence or abuse. In almost all child custody and Arizona father’s rights cases, the best interest of the child standard is used to make decisions.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Although the mother has been most traditionally viewed as the main provider for a child’s wellbeing, fathers also play an important role in a child’s growth and development. Fathers have been proven both in and out of the courtroom to be capable caretakers as well as effective disciplinarians, two important roles for a child’s upbringing. Additionally, studies have shown that having a father who is affectionate, supportive, and involved in a child’s life can be important in developing the child’s language, social, and cognitive development as well as academic achievement and confidence.
Establishing Paternity in Arizona
It is still fairly common for a mother to raise a child on her own, without involvement from the father – in some cases this is intentional for a number of different reasons, and in others it is accidental when the mother is unsure who the child’s father is. There may come a point in the child’s life when the father needs to step up and help with his child’s upbringing. This is why it can be important for the mother or father to establish the child’s paternity.
Paternity is defined as “fatherhood,” and establishing paternity simply means a government agency or a court judge has ruled which male individual is the child’s father. The simplest way to establish paternity in the state of Arizona is by the father and mother signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form. This can occur when both parents agree to the child’s paternity, and signing this form makes paternity official in the eyes of the government and legally establishes the child’s father.
Should the mother or father not agree on who the child’s father is, Arizona state law allows a paternity matter to be started by any of the following individuals:
- The child’s mother
- Male believed to be the father (called the “putative father”)
- The child’s guardian or the person with whom the child is living (called the “custodian”)
- Any government agency providing the child with health insurance or welfare benefits
A motion to establish paternity can be started in the superior court system where the child, mother, and putative father live. Additionally, any government agency providing for the child can also bring a motion to establish paternity outside of court. Either a ruling by the court or a ruling from a government agency is valid when it comes to determining paternity, and both the court and government agency have the right to order blood or genetic testing to establish the child’s paternity. In order for this paternity test to be considered “valid,” there must be at least a 95 percent chance the male is the father.
Best Interest of the Child Standard in Arizona
Arizona judges are guided in child custody and parental rights cases to make decisions in accordance with the “best interests of the child” standard. Some of the factors determining the best interests of the child include:
- Both parents’ preferences
- The child’s preferences
- Relationship between the child and each parent
- Relationship between the child and any siblings
- Relationships between the child and other significant individuals
- Child’s ability to adjust to current or potentially new surroundings in the home, community, or school
- Both parents’ mental health
- The child’s mental health
- Both parents’ physical health
- The child’s physical health
Additionally, the court considers which parent is most likely to allow meaningful and frequent contact between the child and the other parent and also which parent has traditionally cared for the child. Parents who use coercion or duress as a means of obtaining a custody agreement in their favor are not looked upon positively by the judge in comparison with a parent willing to cooperate with the other parent for the benefit of their child.
Arizona Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
A child’s biological parents both have a right to seek Arizona child custody and/or visitation, and this right applies to both parents equally. This right also stands regardless of if the parents were married or not when the child was born. Arizona judges again use the best interests of the child standard to guide their decision regarding the custody of children involved in the case. This also applies to any visitation schedule put into place for either the father or mother. The judge always assumes involvement from both parents is important for the child.
Father’s Right to Child Support
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, it is possible for one parent to be named the child’s primary custodian and the other parent the non-custodian. This means the custodian is primarily responsible for the child’s upbringing and care while the non-custodian is often awarded visitation and also ordered to pay child support. Child support is often ordered as a means for the non-custodian to financially provide for the child’s upbringing, and this financial support is meant to be used for the child’s needs including clothing, housing, food, and other items.
Regardless of who is named custodian, either the father or the mother, the child’s custodian has a right to seek child support for help with raising the child. Fathers who are named custodian have as a much a right to seek and enforce child support payments as a mother named custodian. Parents named custodian in the state of Arizona have power under the Child Support Enforcement Program to help enforce the payment of child support from the ordered parent.
How Arizona Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
When a father feels his rights to a relationship with his child are being violated, a professional fathers’ rights lawyer can be a valuable resource. These legal professionals are often well versed in the laws surrounding child custody, child support, and parental rights as they refer to the father’s role, and they can often help men with children get the time and custody they deserve. This may be a key step to making sure a father’s rights are enforced in court.