If you are the legal parent of a minor child in Arizona, you have the right to parenting time with your child until the child becomes an adult. “Parenting time” is the official legal term, but people sometimes speak of “visitation” for parents whose parenting time amounts to less than half of the days in the year. Each child can have a maximum of two legal parents. According to Arizona law, a woman who gives birth to a child is the child’s legal parent unless and until she legally terminates her parental rights.
Some women do this as soon as the child is born, as in the case of birth mothers who have agreed to place their child for adoption and have already been matched with adoptive parents, and gestational surrogates who transfer parental rights to the child’s genetic mother. From a legal standpoint, it is also possible to relinquish one’s parental rights to an older child so that another family can legally adopt the child.
A man who is legally married to the birth mother at the time of the child’s birth automatically becomes the child’s legal parent, and the child’s birth certificate identifies him as such. If you have never been married to your child’s mother, establishing legal paternity for your child is a prerequisite for court-ordered parenting time. An Arizonafamily law attorney can help you at every stage of the process.
Court-Ordered Parenting Time in Arizona Divorce Cases
Every divorce case where the couple has at least one minor child together must include a court-ordered parenting plan as part of the official dissolution of the marriage. (You do not need a parenting plan, and no one has to pay child support if all of your children have reached adulthood by the time your divorce becomes final.) The parenting plan does not include any financial details, but it does indicate how many days per year each parent will spend with the children, as well as apportioning responsibility for transporting the children from one parent’s house to the other and decision-making authority about extracurricular activities and non-emergency medical treatment. Only after the court has established how many days per year each parent is responsible for the children can it calculate child support, which is based on a formula involving each parent’s income, expenses, and the number of days of parenting time per year.
The right to a parenting plan after divorce applies whether you are related to the child genetically or through adoption. If you adopted your stepchildren and then you divorced their mother, you are still their legal father and have a right to parenting time.
How to Establish Paternity
If you have never been legally married to your child’s mother, even if you have lived with the mother and child for the child’s entire life, you must establish legal paternity before becoming legally entitled to parenting time. If you have never been married to your child’s mother, and you have not adopted your child, you can file a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity petition. You do not need a DNA paternity test for this, but you do need the mother’s signature. If the mother refuses to sign, you can ask the court to declare you the father, but you do need a DNA test for this.
Getting a Court Order for Parenting Time When You Have Never Been Married to Your Child’s Mother
After you have established paternity, you can get a court-ordered parenting plan by filing apetition to establish parenting time. The courts of Arizona will only accept your petition if the child has resided in Arizona for at least six months or is an infant who has resided in Arizona since birth. With parenting time come child support obligations. The courts hold that it is in the best interests of children to spend time with both parents, but getting as much parenting time as you want is harder than it sounds, especially if your ex-partner is trying to stop you from maintaining a relationship with your child. The best way to avoid obstacles to getting a court order for parenting time is to work with a family law attorney from the beginning.
Contact Singular Law Group About Court-Ordered Parenting Time
A family law attorney can help you exercise your legal right to be involved in your child’s upbringing, even if you have never been legally married to your child’s mother.Contact Singular Law Group PLLC in Tempe, Arizona, to set up a consultation.