When a child is born out of wedlock in AZ, custody (now legal decision making) of that child is automatically granted to the mother. In order for the father to have access to the child, he has to go through the court. If the mother denies he is the father of the child, then he must go through the timely (and expensive) procedure of establishing paternity. This can take considerable time and during this period, the father will have no legal right to visitation with his child, unless the mother is willing to allow such contact. If this legislation passes, the new law would grant fathers equal custody rights if the father’s name is on the birth certificate, or if both parents confirm paternity.
Advocates of this proposed Bill insist that the laws, as they stand, are weighed too heavily in the mother’s favor, while the father must seek Court intervention to obtain parenting time, visitation and legal decision making (formerly referred to as “child custody”). They believe this new law would level the playing field, which would benefit not only the father, but the child as well. Even organizations typically supportive of single mothers are backing this legislation.
Those who oppose this Bill are concerned about the ramifications it may pose for single mothers who have escaped abusive relationships. The Bill, if approved, would need to provide for such situations to protect the welfare of not only the child, but the mother as well. Other concerns include an “absentee father” who shows up after months or years of having no contact with the child and is suddenly afforded visitation or parenting time.
This is important legislation that could change the face of family law in Arizona. We will continue to monitor this legislation, so check back frequently for further updates.