Child Custody and Parents that Are Not Married
Child Custody and Parents that Are Not Married
When we think of child custody, we often think of two parents who are married. However, other issues and situations to think about, such as when the parents are unmarried. This is a common scenario. The question is: What happens to kids then when the parents are not legally married? The situation becomes a bit different, legally speaking.
At Reppucci & Roeder, we have seen a variety of situations come before our experienced attorneys. As a result, we have extensive experience dealing with all kinds of particular dynamics and issues. With our knowledgeable attorneys by your side, we will do all we can to advocate for you in family law matters like child custody.
With this post, we will briefly discuss what happens regarding child custody for parents that are not married in Arizona.
Does it matter if the parents are not married for child custody purposes in Arizona?
In Arizona, the short answer is that, yes, it does matter. The situation regarding who receives custody over the children—whatever the relationship types—changes somewhat if the two parties are not married. A lot of the differences have to do with proving someone is the parent.
Generally, if two people are married, a court will assume that one parent’s child is the biological child of the other parent because they are legally married and just with one another. As a result, when you are not married, there is no such presumption that the child is your child (or your partner’s child). However, the mother is not subject to this rule. The mother is automatically the legal guardian of the child, which means that the custodial duties of the father are in question at that point and need to be established, but hers are assumed and accepted. This means that the first step in a child custody case is for the judge to establish paternity for the child’s father.
Before the judge can enter an order—such as giving decision-making powers to one or both parents or establishing child support payments—paternity must be established. This means that the court will look into whether the father is the child’s biological father. Both parties can agree—formally—in front of the court that this is indeed true, that the man saying he is the father is actually the biological father of the child or children. This is called “stipulating,” which means that, legally, everyone agrees on this topic that the man claiming to be the father is indeed the father. The court will use this stipulation to create a court order saying that this man is the father for custody.
However, if the parties will not stipulate this, there is something called a petition to establish paternity. This can be done with the birth certificate of the child in question. The biological father’s signature should be on the birth certificate, signed when the child was born at the hospital. As long as it has been sixth months since the father signed the birth certificate, this establishes paternity (i.e., that the court considers that man to be the child’s biological father). This will be part of the petition to establish paternity in court.
There is also a paternity test, which establishes biological paternity up to 95% accuracy. The court will use one of these ways to establish paternity and thereby rule on custody matters. In addition, until the father is established as the father for legal purposes, the mother is the sole legal custodian of the child and can make decisions and arrangements therein under her power. Until the court believes paternity, the mother can arrange for adoption or prevent the alleged father from seeing the child.
Seek the qualified and knowledgeable attorneys at Reppucci & Roeder
At Reppucci & Roeder, we have seen many different family arrangements and dynamics through our years of practice. Our attorneys have worked with numerous families in a variety of situations regarding child custody matters. Consequently, having an experienced attorney handle the complex legal matters that may arise in your Arizona child custody case gives you the peace of mind you need during a challenging and stressful time.
Let us do the legal work for you. Call us today at (480) 418-6420 for your free consultation.
Ryan Reppucci is the managing partner at Reppucci & Roeder and is recognized as one of Phoenix’s leading family law attorneys. After graduating from Arizona State with the highest honors and inclusion in America’s most prestigious student honor societies, Ryan attended the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. His career as a law student was decorated with numerous awards, including the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Book Award, nomination for membership in Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities, as well as Moot Court.
Ryan began his law career in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in various roles with America’s busiest criminal court systems. His success in these roles led to a clerkship with a leading criminal defense firm. Recognizing that his passion was in helping families, Ryan chose to move back to his native hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, where he began his practice in Family and Domestic Relations Law. Throughout his career, Ryan has stayed committed to excellence, service to others, and integrity within the legal profession. As part of his mantra of service to others, Ryan has served as Judge Pro Tempore for the Maricopa County Superior Court and regularly teaches as an adjunct law professor with Arizona Summit Law School.