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DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC Board certified Family Law Specialist*

Unmarried fathers have uphill battle to vindicate parental rights

Unwed fathers in Arizona and elsewhere historically have had an uphill battle trying to have courts recognize and enforce their rights to be in their children's lives. Yet the lack of a wedding ceremony does not render a man any less a parent. It is important for such fathers to realize that just signing a child's birth certificate is insufficient to fully assert their parental rights. They must file paternity actions because in the final analysis, only a court can conclusively recognize his rights as a father, despite an obligation to support the child that can arise from signing the certificate.

In some instances, unmarried fathers are surprised to become the target of a child support lawsuit by the state. The state can initiate such an action regardless of any agreement he may have had with the mother to forgo support based on any application for aid for the child such as SNAP benefits (popularly known as food stamps) or Medicaid, etc. The mother is compelled to disclose the father's identity on the application, and the state will pursue the father to recover the money regardless of the wishes of the mother.

Whether the father has provided child support or not has nothing to do with the right of the child and father to spend time with each other. Without a formal court order, however, visitation for such fathers can be subject to the unreviewed whims of the mother. Making sure that these rights are fully respected and enforced requires court intervention. Family law attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced in successfully putting forward such claims.

Source: ABC Action News, "Five important things that unwed fathers need to know" Yvette Harrell, Oct. 08, 2013

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