The first thing you should know is that there is a difference between your rights as a Father when you are or are not married to the mother. Juvenile law governs the rights of unmarried Fathers who have not gone to the family court to establish rights. Family court governs rights of married fathers who are getting divorced and also governs the rights of unmarried fathers who file the paperwork to establish paternity and custody (legal decision making and parenting time).
No matter what your situation is, if you need the help of a court to establish your rights or to determine your rights, you will need to understand the “best interest factors” which is what the courts look at to decide “custody” (legal decision making and parenting time). If you have questions or are considering divorce or establishing your Fathers’ rights, please call and schedule a consultation.
In Arizona, if you are a married father, there is a legal presumption that you are the biological father of the child. This means you are presumed to be the legal father of the child and paternity is already established. You have a legal right to the child and to participate in major decision about the child, such as medical treatment, education or religious training. Being a married father comes with responsibly as well in the event of a divorce, particularly regarding the establishment of child support.
In Arizona the law recognizes the equal rights of fathers during separation and divorce. The fact that you might have worked full-time during the marriage to allow your wife to stay home to care for the children will not be held against you when it comes to determining legal decision-making and parenting time. Courts in Arizona no longer follow the “tender years doctrine” where mothers were favored when it came to determining parenting schedules for young children. Both mother and father are viewed equal in the eyes of the law and either may qualify for primary residential parent. The courts cannot favor one parent over another and must take the facts of each case into consideration when they make a decision. Courts and parents should both focus on the children’s best interests.
In Arizona, a father who is not married to his child’s mother has no legal right to the child until paternity has been established, either by agreement (affidavit between the parents) and a written agreement or a court order outlines the schedule and decision making ability of each parent. The unmarried mother can make significant decisions with regard to the child’s medical treatment, education, and religious training all without the father’s consent or even seeking his approval, unless or until he seeks to gain his rights.