As a divorce attorney in Arizona, I want to explain that parents that are married will oftentimes have more child custody rights than parents who have not wed. This is because there is a presumption that a child born during a marriage is a biological child of the parties. This is called the marital presumption. It is important to know what rights are present in this situation and how to establish your rights as a parent. If you’re going through child custody issues and are not married, there are a few things that you will want to understand.
Married vs Unmarried
Arizona is one of the many states that has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act (UCCA) in the hopes to minimize interstate child custody conflicts. Child custody laws of Arizona allow for the option of joint custody between both parents in the case of marriage. In the case of unmarried couples, the process is a bit different since there is no divorce involved. Because of this judges and child support lawyers aren’t necessarily involved when it comes to informal child custody. Parents are free to make their own parenting agreements that cover child custody, child support, and decision-making. This is an ideal scenario for parents that get along, are flexible, and open to arrangements when it comes to custody or support (see our blog post on how a little civility can save you money). However, realize that an informal agreement that has not been signed by a judge isn’t necessarily legally binding. There is a possibility that informal arrangements regarding child issues will be disregarded by a court in later proceedings. Also remember in the absence of formal court orders there is nothing stopping a legally recognized parent from withholding custody or outright relocating. In the case where both parents do not agree it is advisable to seek out an experienced family lawyer in Arizona. It is important to note that if the well-being of the child or children is at risk, the court may not be obligated to follow the agreement in place. Yet another reason to seek advice from a child custody lawyer.
Establishing Court Orders
If you are a parent that is being denied visitation or decision-making rights it is important to first seek an agreement with the other party. In the event, you are unsuccessful in coming to an agreement, you may want to consider your options in court. According to the Arizona Revised Statute §13-1302 (B) states “If a child is born out of wedlock, the mother is the legal custodian of the child for the purposes of this section until paternity is established and custody or access is determined by a court.“ For this reason, if you are a father that is unwed to the mother of your child, it is crucial that you file a custody order to establish a legal agreement and paternity. This can be done on your own or with the guidance of a divorce lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona. The Weingart Family Law Firm offers assistance filing paperwork from our paralegal staff and full representation if things go any further.