What Rights Do You Have as an Unmarried Father?
Arizona is one of several states that allows both married and unmarried fathers different rights in regards to their children. When you learn that your girlfriend is pregnant, you may feel happy, excited and a little nervous because you do not want to marry that woman. There are some cases that involve men not marrying the mothers of their children because of physical abuse, mental instability or other problems. Even if you did not marry that women, you still have legal rights like the right to see your child.
Establishing paternity is not always as complicated as some people think. When you have a fight with your child's mother before that child is born, the mother can claim you as the father on the birth certificate. Unless you contest that claim within a certain amount of time, the legal system will hold you responsible for that child. You cannot sign away your parental rights unless the mother and the court both agree. The mother can also put another man's name on the birth certificate as the father. You will need to request a paternity test to prove that you are the father.
Setting Up Child Support
As the legal father of a child, the court may decide that you should pay child support. This order will go to your employer, and your employer will then deduct a set amount of money from each check to send to the child support division in your state. Even if you live in another state, Arizona can still take money from your checks. Child support orders usually depend on the amount of money that you make. If you lose your job or have your hours cut back, you can request changes to that order.
Seeing Your Child
Fathers living in Arizona and other states have the legal right to see their children. The mother of your child cannot deny you this right. If the court set up a visitation schedule that allows you to keep your kids every other weekend, the mother can face issues if she does not follow that schedule. She cannot drop off or pick up the kids late, keep changing the schedule or leave the kids with you for an extended period of time. If you can prove that she violates the order, the court may give you primary custody.
Making Legal Decisions
Many fathers do not realize that they still have the legal right to make decisions for their children, even if they never married the mothers of those kids. These decisions can include where your child goes to school and how a doctor can treat your sick child. If the mother of your child continually denies you the right to make these decisions or makes decisions without asking for your input, you can contact Father's Rights in Arizona and similar organizations that offer legal help. You may need to go back to court and request changes to the custody agreement.
Not every couple who has a child together makes the decision to exchange vows and live together while raising that child. Even if you had a child with an old girlfriend or friend and are not longer together, Arizona gives you certain rights like the ability to regularly see your child.