It is not unusual for families to function well without ever getting married. However, if you’re concerned about the legal issues that could arise because you and your partner aren’t married, you can protect yourself and your kids with just a few simple steps.
Establish paternity right away
When moms give birth to babies, there is no doubt about their maternity. Dads need to take steps to establish their paternity legally if they aren’t married. Why is this important? It protects the father’s right to spend time with their kids and make decisions on their behalf. Establishing paternity immediately also preserves a dad’s right to child custody if his relationship with the mom falls apart at some point.
Establishing paternity protects children, too, because it gives them the financial security of receiving child support if necessary. Perhaps more importantly, legal paternity can make it easier for their father to be present and active in their lives. Finally, paternity also means your kids qualify for benefits such as Social Security should a parent die.
How can you establish paternity?
When your child is born, ask for an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. You and the child’s mother can fill this form out and sign it, putting you on the path to legal fatherhood.
If you didn’t do this when your child was born, you and your co-parent may visit a Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) office and complete the Voluntary Affidavit Acknowledging Paternity. The DCSS will file this form per state law to establish your paternity legally.
As you can see, it is not hard to validate your paternity and ensure you remain an active and positive influence in your child’s life. To protect everyone in your family, we recommend learning more about Arizona child custody laws for nonmarried parents, even if your relationship is still going strong.