When legal child custody is decided during dissolution of marriage, the court recognizes each parent equally, meaning neither parent receives preferential treatment based on gender. However, if the parents were never married, the biological father has no legal right to either custody or parenting time without both an order entered to establish parental rights and legally established paternity. Once paternity is established, one parent must file a request to have the court decide custody and parenting time. At that point, the court’s decision is based on what is deemed best for the child, just as it is when the parents have been legally married. You can petition the court for both paternity and custody at the same time.
When is Paternity Assumed?
A child’s biological father may voluntarily acknowledge paternity or have it legally established. However, Arizona Revised Statute delineates a number of conditions in which paternity is assumed. This means that, unless it receives evidence to the contrary, the court automatically recognizes paternity under the following circumstances:
- He and the mother were married at any point during the 10 months preceding the child’s birth
- The child’s birth took place within 10 months of the marriage ending
- A DNA test revealed 95 percent probability of paternity
- The mother and father both signed the birth certificate, even if unmarried
- Both parents, either together or separately, signed a notarized or witnessed statement that acknowledges paternity