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Understanding the rights of unmarried fathers

The rights of unmarried fathers have often been compromised when it comes to their involvement in the day-to-day lives of their children. In recent times, however, fathers' rights have evolved and that has led to the "tender years' doctrine" of yesteryears-which said that a mother should have custody of a young child-taking a back seat. As a result of this development, there have been great advances in bridging the gap that historically existed between unmarried fathers and children born out of wedlock.

A landmark event in this direction was when the United States Supreme Court ruled that unmarried fathers have parental rights, too. The ruling was a result of the multiple petitions that were filed against the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which terminated the parental rights of unmarried fathers when the mother chose to place the child for adoption without the consent of the father. According to the court, the biological link between the child and the father gave that father the right to establish a substantial relation with the child and to be an integral part of the child's upbringing.

Per the current laws in Arizona, a man is considered the legal father of a child:

  • When that man and the child's mother were married at any time starting from 10 months before the birth of the child to 10 months after the birth of the child.
  • When a paternity test establishes the biological relation between the father and the child with an accuracy level of at least 95 percent.
  • When both the man and the child's mother sign on the child's birth certificate after that child is born out of wedlock.
  • When the mother of a child and a man sign a notarized or witnessed statement, either individually or jointly, that acknowledges paternity of a child.

There may be many unmarried fathers in Phoenix and the surrounding areas who wish to be with their children and see them grow, even if those children were born out of wedlock. However, their lack of knowledge about the relevant laws may be preventing them from being a part of their children's lives. For such fathers, it may be a wise decision to seek legal guidance on how they can establish paternity and thereby ensure that they play an important role in their children's upbringing.

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