As is the case in other states, Arizona has a means for fathers to establish paternity over any of their children who are born out of wedlock without having to go to court. Specifically, so long as the mother is also willing to sign, a father can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. Before signing on the dotted line, it is important for dads in Phoenix to know what this form will and will not do should they elect to sign it.
For one, an Acknowledgement of Paternity is not effective, standing alone, if the mother of a child is married at the time of giving birth. If a man signs an Acknowledgment of Paternity, he is admitting that he is certainly the father of the child named on the document and that there is no need for genetic testing or other court proceedings to establish that fact.
On the other hand, the form does nothing other than establish paternity. This means that if a mom or dad feel they need a custody or support order, they will have to file the necessary paperwork with the appropriate court. In other words, an unmarried father's rights do not have any teeth until they get a court order addressing things like custody, visits and support.
Although a difficult topic to address, men should be very careful not to sign an Acknowledgement if they have any reason to doubt that they are the biological father of the child, unless of course that issue does not matter to them. However, if a man signs an Acknowledgement when his is not the father, the actual father can later file an action to become the legal father. While there are ways of setting aside an Acknowledgement, especially shortly after signing it, a man could wind up paying support for a child that is not his biological offspring.