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Father’s Rights in AZ

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No matter what type of legal matter you may be facing, the law recognizes all parties involved equally regardless of gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or any other type of classification. However, in matters of divorce involving child custody and child support, there is a societal stereotype that implies fathers and mothers are treated differently. Some believe that mothers have more rights because of long-standing beliefs that they are caregivers and providers for children while men work to earn money for the family. At one point, this may have been true, but these gender roles should no longer influence the law.

Some of the misconceptions between mothers and fathers when it comes to custody of children are in an outdated law known as the Tender Years Doctrine. This used to give more weight to the mother than the father in terms of raising the child in the event of separation or divorce. However, this law is no longer recognized in Arizona.

It’s also important to recognize that the perceived imbalance between mothers and fathers is even more significant when the parents have never been married. This gap likely exists because while mothers have a proven biological connection to their children, fathers lack that same connection if paternity is never established. This factor can lead to highly contested battles for parenting rights.

Father’s Rights

Despite legal misconceptions or a lack of an admission of paternity, a father still has the opportunity to fight for their right to be a part of their child’s life. This typically involves some combination of parenting time, decision-making rights, custody, child support, and visitation. With a greater understanding of how the law protects and establishes these rights, you can be better equipped and empowered to fight for a relationship with your child.

Fighting for parental rights as a father can have many implications. Knowing the distinct rights you are pursuing is crucial as you begin the legal process.

Some of the rights you may be entitled to as a father include:

Legal Decision-Making

Ideally, both parents have the right to participate in making decisions regarding what may be in the best interests of the child. Typically, these decisions involve matters of education, health care, religion, and other issues regarding the child’s care, living arrangements, and activities. When the courts are charged with determining legal decision-making rights, rights can be granted to both parents jointly, or one parent can be given sole responsibility.

Parenting Time or Visitation

Parenting time is the amount of physical time a parent is awarded with their child. Parenting time can be divided evenly, or one parent can be awarded more time than the other. Parenting time is awarded by the courts based on what is in the best interests of the child, including any emotional or physical needs that must be taken into consideration. If one parent is awarded the vast majority of the parenting time, the other may be limited to visitation, in which the child does not physically reside with the parent. Visitation can be unsupervised or supervised by a court-appointed individual.

Full Custody

While parenting time and decision-making rights are both types of custody (physical and legal, respectively), the best interests of the child may dictate that one parent retain sole decision-making rights and sole parenting time, a situation known as full custody. Fathers have the right to present evidence in an effort to be awarded full custody of their child. Evidence can come from a variety of sources that can help to show the father’s custody is in the best interests of the child. If the evidence demonstrates the relationship between the father and child, the father’s ability to provide for the child, the mental capacity of the father, any unfounded claims made by the other parent, and more, the father may receive full parenting time and decision-making rights.

Parenting Plan

Fathers have the right to propose a parenting plan that can be a part of any negotiation and mediation that they could engage in with the mother of the child. The parenting plan is the father’s opportunity to propose decision-making powers, parenting time, how the child will be transported from parent to parent, mediate the processes for relocations or other disputes, and other matters that could become part of the legal custody order.

It is important to remember that these rights are guaranteed to either parent that is legally established as a parent. That means that in order to pursue these rights, you must be established as the father. Without a paternity test or without being specifically named on the birth certificate of the child, the father cannot claim the rights granted to them under the law. In addition, male figures such as step-fathers are not guaranteed these rights unless they have previously been granted loco parentis. This means they are given third-party rights to serve as parental figures for the child under the law.

Establishing yourself as the father can start with your own admission of paternity. However, without the legal documentation to support such a claim with biological evidence, the process can become complicated. Participating in DNA testing, whether voluntarily or in response to a court order, can establish the legal grounds to assert your rights as a father.

Legal Preparedness During Divorce

If you are about to embark on the process to obtain legal rights to your children, a sound legal strategy can be the first step in securing those rights. The decisions you make during divorce can make a difference when it comes to your chances of securing parenting time and decision-making rights.

Consider the following:

Marital Home

The marital home is more than just a residence owned or rented by the parents – it is also considered the safe haven of the child. This means it is a source of comfort and stability and establishes the child as a part of the surrounding community. The location of the home determines what school the child may attend or where they go to spend time with friends and engage in community activities. For this reason, fathers who seek custody of their child may wish to focus on the marital home as a crucial part of divorce negotiations. This may mean fighting to remain in the home in order to help provide a smooth transition for their child.

Co-Parenting Strategies

While many parents don’t wish to share parenting time or decision-making, co-parenting involves showing the intent to ensure the needs of the child are being met. Having a plan in place can enable parents to manage day-to-day tasks such as arranging doctor visits, attending educational programs, assisting with homework, and much more. Taking time to plan these types of activities and involvement in each can help fathers demonstrate they are willing and capable of parenting their children.

These are just two important ways that decisions during a divorce proceeding could have an impact on the overall decisions regarding a father’s rights with their child.

Rights of Married Fathers vs. Unmarried Fathers

Of course, the above considerations only apply to fathers who were married to their child’s mother, meaning that paternity is already established. The rights of any father are protected under the law, but there are some key differences between those who are married and those who are unmarried.

Married Fathers

As mentioned, for those fathers married to the mother before the child was born, there exists a presumption of paternity. This means that the father is legally recognized as the biological parent. With this recognition, you have the right to pursue parenting time, decision-making responsibilities, and more if you separate from or divorce the child’s mother. Depending on the dynamics of the relationship and who the primary wage earner was, you may even be able to pursue child support.

Unmarried Fathers

Unmarried parents may establish paternity when the mother signs an Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital or other birthing facility. At any point, the mother can also sign a paternity affidavit. If these documents do not exist, there must be a paternity test to prove the biological connection with the child. This can be ordered by a court or requested by the father. Without this test, the mother would automatically hold decision-making and custodial rights to the child.

The legal implications for unmarried fathers are also more complex because of what is known as custodial interference. If you do not have a paternity test proving you are the father and you take your child somewhere without the mother, you could face legal repercussions because you do not have the right to take the child anywhere without the mother’s permission. While it may not have been a problem before, a simple argument could turn into a criminal case quickly.

For this reason – and to pursue the documentation necessary to secure your parental rights – it is crucial to hire a skilled father’s rights attorney.

Father’s Rights FAQs

Determining your rights as a father will undoubtedly raise many questions, and knowing their answers is essential to building a formidable case. Here are some common questions that could arise if you are faced with fighting for your rights as a father.

Can a Mother Move a Child Away From the Father in Arizona?

Can a Mother Move a Child Away From the Father in Arizona?

Arizona Revised Statute 25-408 outlines what is and is not allowed by a parent who has physical custody of a child. Under this law, a parent who wishes to move with the child must provide notice to the other parent at least 60 days prior as long as both parents live in Arizona. This applies when the parent wishes to move 100 miles or more away from the other parent. During the 60-day notice, the other parent has the right to file a motion through their attorney to stop the move from occurring.

How Can a Father Lose Custody in Arizona?

How Can a Father Lose Custody in Arizona?

Either parent can lose custody of the child regardless of the rights they are entitled to. If the parent is unable to provide for the basic needs of the child or is proven to be unfit, the other parent could file to have the custody order amended. While Arizona courts prefer to help the child build a relationship with both parents, it may be in the child’s best interests to remain apart from one parent.


What Are the Rights of a Father in Arizona?

What Are the Rights of a Father in Arizona?

A father has the right to pursue decision-making responsibilities for their child. This means they have the right to make decisions on educational opportunities, religion, healthcare, and more. Fathers also have the right to pursue parenting time or visitation. In order to preserve these rights, a father must have legally established themselves as the father through a paternity test or via the mother’s acknowledgment of paternity on the birth certificate.

How Long Does a Father Have to Be Absent to Lose His Rights in Arizona?

How Long Does a Father Have to Be Absent to Lose His Rights in Arizona?

While a father has parental rights once paternity is established, they can also lose those rights if they are absent from the child’s life. In Arizona, a father is deemed to have abandoned their child if they are absent from the child’s life for a period of 6 months or more. To prove that the father has abandoned the child, the other parent must show that there weren’t any attempts to maintain a normal parental relationship with the child.

Father’s Rights Attorney in Arizona

All too often, a father’s impetus to pursue his rights is overshadowed by misinterpretations of old stereotypes and societal norms. This can result in a father settling for limited time with his child or even failing to pursue his rights at all, which can have a negative effect on both father and child. In fact, there are numerous ways in which the rights of a father could be overlooked throughout the legal process, including oversights and biases during parenting time, decision-making, and child support decisions.

If you are a father and need help with protecting your rights, our team has the knowledge and experience you need to stay involved in your son or daughter’s life. Whether you need the help of a father’s rights attorney in Gilbert, in Phoenix, Scottsdale or Peoria – the skilled family law team at The Valley Law Group can help.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and turn to the next page of your fatherhood journey.

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