Filing for Sole Custody in Arizona

How To File for Sole Custody in Arizona

Divorce can be stressful, but there are several related matters that must be addressed in a professional manner to ensure its success for all parties involved. If you have children, the children’s needs should come first, and the legal system will prioritize these over anything else. In particular, one divorce-related matter Arizona family court must contend with is child custody.

While most Arizona parents share parenting time and decision-making rights, in some instances, one parent may seek sole custody of their child. This mainly applies to cases where the other parent has a history of domestic violence, neglect, or another similar issue. If you want to file for sole custody in Arizona, you’ll need to follow a few specific steps and ensure you submit correctly completed documents in a timely manner.

It is imperative you complete custody-related documents accurately, as failure to do so could lengthen the legal process or prevent you from obtaining the sole custody you are pursuing. While you might consider hiring a family law attorney to represent you in your case, Draft My Legal Docs can draft custody paperwork and help you complete this quickly, accurately, and at a much lower cost. To help, we have put together a step-by-step guide to filing for sole custody.

Understanding Sole Custody

Parents who want to file for sole parenting time and decision-making rights must learn how to file for full custody in Arizona, which is considered the same thing. While other states refer to these aspects of custody as physical and legal custody, Arizona designates parenting time and decision-making rights.

In Arizona, there are no circumstances where one parent is favored over the other. Most of the time, the court prefers that both parents should parent and make decisions for their children, meaning both parents share responsibility for their children. However, this could be problematic for some divorced couples, especially if one parent is not capable of upholding such a responsibility. For this reason, some people never consider how to file for joint custody in Arizona, as they feel full custody is more appropriate.

Depending on your situation, sole custody may be appropriate. If your soon-to-be-ex-spouse has a criminal past, abuses drugs or alcohol, or has a pattern of domestic violence, the court may grant you both sole parenting time and decision-making rights. However, it will be necessary to prove to the court that you deserve sole custody. Once you’ve presented your case, the court can decide what the best interests of the child are and make their decision to support those interests.

How To File for Full Custody in Arizona

How To File for Sole Custody in AZ

Not every step of our following guide will apply to you, depending on your scenario. However, we’d like to outline the process for filing for sole parenting time and decision-making rights so you can be prepared when the time comes.

Complete and file the Required Paperwork

The beginning of this process can be tedious, but it’s a necessary step to take. You must complete various required documents and file them so the court can begin evaluating your case.

These forms are contained in a packet known as a Petition to Establish Legal Decision-Making, Parenting Time and Child Support and include:

  • Sensitive Data Cover Sheet with Children
  • Summons to Respond or Appear in Court.
  • Petitions to Establish Paternity, Request Child Support, Evaluate Child Custody, and more
  • Notice of Appearance
The Sensitive Data Cover Sheet contains sensitive information such as social security numbers, birth dates, and more. The court will keep this information safe and it cannot be shared with other parties. You may not need to submit a cover sheet depending on your county of residence. A notice of appearance may only be required if you have a lawyer representing you from the start of the case. All petitions are essential to the successful completion of your filing.

You are also required to submit a fee to file this paperwork, currently around $200. This depends on the county you file in.

Serve Your Papers

You must notify the other parent about your sole custody case by officially serving them copies of your filed paperwork. One of the best ways to do this is by using certified mail with restricted delivery and a return receipt. This costs somewhere between ten and fifteen dollars, depending on how many documents are involved.

If the other party does not sign for the certified mail within 25 days, you’ll likely need to hire a process server to help. A process server will officially serve the documents to the other party and typically costs between $75 and $100, depending on what work has to be done to find the person. If you cannot serve your papers after attempting every possible solution, you can try asking your court for alternate methods, including service by publication, county sheriff, and more.

This process can sometimes be frustrating, especially if the other parent is uncooperative. No matter your situation, we can help you draft your documents and find the most effective way of serving your documents.

Attend Parenting Classes

Parenting Classes in Arizona

Every Arizona parent who files for sole custody is responsible for attending parenting classes as required by the state. Once the respondent has been served the documents, you must take a certified parenting course within 45 days. This costs $50, and you can either schedule your course online or by calling Family Court Conciliation Services.

Wait for a Response

After you’ve served the other parent their documents, they have 20 days to respond if they are in-state or 30 days if out-of-state. This does not include the day that the other party was served, but it does include holidays and weekends. However, if the last day of this period falls on a weekend or holiday, their last day is considered the next business day.

Request a Default Judgment

It can be distressing when the other party doesn’t respond in a timely manner or at all. Fortunately, there are regulations in place that keep your case moving despite a failure to respond.

If the other party doesn’t respond at all after being served, you can file for a default judgment. This process requires another form we can draft for you. The form requests that the court begin their default proceedings as the other party has failed to respond. The other party will then receive a ten-day grace period, which is their last chance to respond without facing penalties. If they still refuse to respond, you can file a final request for default judgment alongside a default decree.

As long as the sole custody arrangement you initially asked for is reasonable, the judge is likely to grant it by default. However, the judge won’t immediately sign off on your petition, as there is a 90-day waiting period.

Wait to Submit a Consent Decree

If you and the respondent agree on the child custody arrangements after filing your initial paperwork, you must then wait to file a consent decree that you’ll both sign. You’ll have to wait 60 days after the date you serve the papers, as well as the time it takes for the judge to sign the decree. Even if both parties agree to sole custody, you may still have to attend a court hearing over the matter, but this is up to the judge. While the law technically states that you must go to a court hearing if there are children involved, judges may not ask you to do this.

Attend Cour

If the other party responds to the petition and either agrees or requests an alternative solution, the case will be referred to the assigned judge’s division. The judge’s assistant then organizes a preliminary hearing, also called a Resolution Management Conference. This meeting allows a judge to hear from both sides regarding the petition’s terms. If any agreements have been made, the judge will ask you to elaborate before finalizing a decree. If there are still terms to be addressed, you may be referred to the Conciliation Court, where a mediator is brought in to help sort out custody matters.

If mediation is ineffective or a full agreement isn’t created, the court will set a hearing date for you to attend. It is not recommended that you attend on your own, as a lawyer can help you navigate this tricky process. You’ll also need to provide evidence supporting your claim that you should have sole custody.

You’ll need evidence to demonstrate:

  • Your child’s needs and best interests
  • Documentation of any abusive behavior, neglect, or substance abuse, including photos, videos, police reports, and more
  • Documentation of any violence or criminal behavior

Why Use Draft My Legal Docs?

As you can see, the process for filing for full custody in Arizona requires several carefully drafted legal documents. Each petition should be free of errors and submitted on time and in full. If documentation is inadequate, poorly completed, or late, your case will take longer to complete. Like anything involving the Arizona legal system, it’s risky to navigate this process on your own.

Draft My Legal Docs is a legal document preparation service operated by skilled Arizona family attorneys. Because every case is unique, attention to thorough detail is crucial, especially when it comes to matters such as divorce and child custody. Our family law services can help you complete all the documents you need for your case. Or, we can determine which documents you need after you fill out our questionnaire.

File For Sole Custody in Arizona

Filing for Sole Custody in AZ

The legal system in Arizona can be complex, especially when it comes to family court cases involving children. Matters of custody affect all aspects of a child’s life, including where they live, attend school, their religious upbringing, their healthcare, their physical and mental health, and even their safety. If you believe that having sole custody of your children is imperative to fulfilling their best interests, filing for sole parenting time and decision-making rights is a critical step.

Begin by filing the required documents with the help of Draft My Legal Docs. You’ll ensure that each document is filed in full, on-time, and in accordance with Arizona regulations. then you’ll need to file the right documents with the right information. Visit our divorce and child custody document section for more information, or contact us directly with any questions or concerns you may have.


An Arizona Parent’s Guide to Successful Co-Parenting

Families who are recently divorced often find it hard to settle into co-parenting. For many families, what once was seemingly easy to do from within one home, one unit, and with one united force becomes difficult and riddled with disputes and arguments. But with a little work and determination to keep the focus on the kids, you can provide your children with the security, stability, and parental relationships they need to thrive.

Sometimes, though, putting relationship problems aside following a divorce isn’t always as simple as it sounds, and resentment can be a hard obstacle to overcome. Having to see your ex-partner when dropping off or picking up your child and having to act cordially and make agreeable decisions can be a challenge. However, with a little work, you can learn to remain calm, be consistent, and experience successful conflict resolution to make joint custody work for everyone. Oftentimes, you can even set the standard for your ex and become an example they will follow going forward.

Why Healthy Co-Parenting Is So Important

The emotional well-being of a child is dependent on the quality of the relationship children have with both of their divorced parents. Unless one parent is unfit or is involved in substance abuse or domestic violence, or has another issue, it is important for children to have both parents playing an active role in their lives, even if one parent doesn’t agree. Realizing that the best way to make sure your child has all their needs met is to help them maintain a close and enduring relationship with both parents.

When kids recognize they are more important than the conflict between their parents, they won’t feel responsible for the divorce, like kids often do. They will believe in your love for them prevailing, regardless of anything else that changes.

Healthy Co-Parenting Is Important

When co-parenting is done properly, children benefit in the following ways:

  • They feel secure and confident in the love of both of their parents, adjust better to the new living environment, and have higher self-esteem.
  • They have a better understanding of problem-solving. When children see their parents getting along and working together despite their breakup, they learn effective and peaceful problem-solving skills.
  • They have a good, solid example to follow in their future relationships.
  • They experience positive mental and emotional well-being and are more emotionally healthy. Children who have parents that successfully co-parent are less likely to develop. Issues like ADHD, depression, and anxiety.

Keys to Successful Co-Parenting in Arizona

The golden rule of successful co-parenting is to learn to separate your personal relationship with your ex from the interactions of co-parenting. Some parents find it easier to reinvent the relationship with their ex. Start over with a completely new relationship that is only based on the child’s well-being rather than either one of you. The most important foundation of co-parenting is putting your children’s needs before your own needs and putting your child’s emotions before your own, as well.

The following provides some tips for effective co-parenting:

Set Anger and Hurt Feelings Aside

Set resentment and anger aside. These emotions must take a back seat to your children’s needs. It is hard to do this, but learning to work in an obliging way with your ex is an important component of co-parenting. Making decisions together and interacting in a positive manner for the kids is vital to successful co-parenting. Try to remember that co-parenting is about your children’s happiness, well-being, and stability. It is not about your or your ex’s feelings. Your feelings don’t have to dictate how you behave. Let what is best for your children motivate you.

Never Vent to Your Child

It is important for parents to get their feelings out, but it is crucial to leave your kids out of your venting sessions about your child’s other parent. Avoid speaking negatively about your ex to your child in general. They have a right to have a loving relationship with both of their parents without feeling like one parent wronged the other parent.

Their relationship with both of you should be free of influence. Seek therapy if necessary or talk with friends or even a pet. Exercise also allows for a healthy outlet to let off pent-up frustration.

Focus on Your Children

Focus on Your Children

When negative feelings start to swell up inside of you, refocus your attention on your children. Look at photos of your kids if it helps you to calm down and remember it’s about your children, not about you. Take a moment to engage in a positive activity with your children as an outlet for your attention.

Don’t Put Your Children in the Middle of the Fight

It may take many years for you to let go of all the resentment and hurt you may feel following divorce, but the necessity to compartmentalize those feelings is essential to your children’s well-being. Remember, these are your problems and issues, not your children’s. Make a promise not to use your child as a pawn in your emotional battles against your ex.

Furthermore, don’t ask your children to tell their other parent something conflicting. This puts them right in the middle of the fight and forces them to feel like they need to pick a side and betray one of their parents. They should never feel like they must pick one parent over the other because of the way one parent feels about the other. Keep your children out of your relationship issues by speaking to your ex in private.

Improving Communication with Your Co-Parent

Get in the mindset that you’re going to communicate with your ex for the well-being of your child, and everything you say to them will be for that purpose only. Consider everything you are going to say through the filter of your child. Ask yourself, “What consequences will this have for my child?”

When communicating with your ex, keep the focus on the child. If your ex veers from that, make a conscious effort to veer the attention back to the primary focus of discussing the child for the betterment of your child’s well-being. Any other communication is unnecessary. Establishing a conflict-free rapport with your ex is the main goal of your interactions with your ex.

Tips for better co-parenting communication:

  • Use a business-style tone – Approach your communication efforts with your ex as you would a business relationship and speak or write as you would to a colleague. Be cordial, respectful, and neutral, and try to relax and speak evenly without emotion.
  • Make requests – Rather than making demands or telling your ex what to do, try making a request in the form of a question. For example, “Do you think you could pick up the kids after school?” or “Would you be willing to get dinner for the kids tonight?”
  • Listen to your ex – One of the most critical components of effective communication is listening, and even if there are disagreements between you and your ex, convey that you have understood their viewpoint. This does not mean you have to approve or agree, but you can establish respect and boundaries by listening to their opinion.
  • Use self-control – You will have to communicate with your ex at least until your child turns 18 or longer. Refrain from overreacting when your ex pushes your buttons and avoid pushing their buttons yourself.
  • Make a commitment to consistency – Establish a frequent line of communication to send a united front message to your children.
  • Stay kid-focused – If a conversation with your ex digresses to a topic that is not about your children, re-focus it so that it is.
  • Be mindful – Stay centered on your goals during the conversation. Learn to recognize the stressors that can turn the tables from a calm and productive conversation, and when you recognize them, stay conscious not to let the stress take over.

Co-Parenting Techniques for Productive Communication

Effective and productive communication with your child’s other parent takes practice. It won’t come easy overnight. Try using some of these communication prompts and conflict resolution tactics to fast-track the progress of your efforts.

Co-Parenting Techniques for Productive Communication

Ask the Other Parent’s Opinion

This is a tried-and-true technique that can optimize positive communication between you and your co-parent. Pick an issue you don’t feel very strongly about to avoid a heated topic and ask for your ex’s opinion and input. Then listen. This shows them that you value their opinion and can lay a foundation of respect and trust for future discussion of more important issues down the road.

Offer an Apology

If you make a mistake or parenting error, apologize upfront and do so sincerely. Even if it’s something that happened long ago that you never made amends over, offer an apology. While apologizing can be powerful when delivered properly, it’s the forgiveness that can move the co-parenting relationship to another level.


Life is chaotic, and things happen. Plans don’t always work out like they were meant to, especially when dealing with kids. If something affects your schedule or impairs your day that has to do with your ex’s parenting time, let it slide. Show flexibility and be an example of that so that the next time you have a conflict that interrupts your parenting time, they will be more likely to let it slide, as well.

Realize Your Common Purpose

Remember that you are both only human and are doing the best you can. In fact, you’re both doing the exact same thing and have a similar purpose in life. You’re raising the same kids within the same community and with the same hardships and external factors. Be understanding of your ex’s efforts and have empathy for their trials as you would want them to do for you.

Maintaining a Co-Parenting Schedule in Arizona

Consistency is key in co-parenting. Having a predetermined schedule that the child can count on and look forward to is important in establishing stability for the child. There are co-parenting apps available that you can download that allow you to communicate without having to always speak directly about schedules, activities, and times.

Input events on the calendar that both of you can view to stay on the same page regarding parenting time. You can make notes to the other parent, and there are other features of these apps that can help both parents stay informed and on the same page with upcoming activities or changes to the schedule ahead of time.

Types of Co-Parenting

Just as there are many types of families and children, there are also different types of co-parenting styles. The three main types that are most often identified are parallel parenting (the most common type of co-parenting), conflicted co-parenting, and cooperative co-parenting. A description of each is below.

Parallel Co-Parenting

This style of co-parenting involves parents who have low conflict, but this may be because they have little communication. They emotionally disengage from one another, and one’s parenting has little to do with the others. They basically are parenting their children within two different realms, and those realms are unassociated with each other. Both households operate independently of the other. There is little consistency between the two homes, which is because the parents do not communicate much, if at all.

Conflicted Co-Parenting

This style of co-parenting is conflicted, as its name suggests, by poor communication and the failure of both parents to separate their emotions from their child’s well-being. This is a harmful style of co-parenting for children because the level of conflict that remains in the family results in negative emotional effects on the children.

Cooperative Co-Parenting

Cooperative co-parenting is the ideal type of co-parenting. It is the most beneficial for children because it is characterized by joint coordination of scheduling and parenting time, joint planning, and flexibility. It also provides parental support for each parent from the other parent. This conflict-free scenario involves parents resolving their differences cordially and without effect on the children. This is the best style of co-parenting because it fosters resilience in the children.

Healthy Co-Parenting in Arizona Is Possible

Healthy Co-Parenting in Arizona Is Possible

With hard work and focus, parents can learn to co-parent at a level that is close to or at the cooperative co-parenting goal. It does take a conscious effort, but it does get easier over time. Just like any skill, with practice, your co-parenting abilities will get better with time. Don’t give up and keep your focus on the kids, and you will prevail as an effective co-parent.Legal document services in Arizona are here to help you better understand your case and gain quick access to the relevant documents you need.


*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published Mar 30, 2018 and has been updated June 23, 2023

How Is Paternity Established in Arizona?

Establishment of Paternity in AZ

If you are a father who has recently had a child in Arizona, it is essential you understand the legalities of paternity in Arizona to ensure you are extended the legal rights you deserve. By contrast, if you have been told you are a father in Arizona, it is critical to ensure this is the case, as you are expected to fulfill a number of legal obligations in the state. Similarly, if you are a mother, you must often establish paternity in Arizona so the state can ensure your child’s father fulfills his obligations.

Arizona so the state can ensure your child’s father fulfills his obligations. Since paternity cases often require some rather complex documentation, it is essential to ensure you are as prepared as possible for what awaits you. While many people choose to hire an attorney with experience in Arizona Family Law, representation can be expensive. Understanding the process of paternity establishment and securing professional paternity documents from Draft My Legal Docs can help you successfully complete your own paternity case in Arizona.

What Is Paternity in AZ?

In the state of Arizona, establishing paternity is the legal process to determine and name the biological father of a child. While most biological fathers are assumed solely due to their relationship with the child’s mother, it can be incredibly important in other cases to establish paternity legally. For example, if a couple is unmarried, establishing paternity is an important first step in claiming parental rights for the child in question.

Without the establishment of paternity in Arizona, the father has no claim on parental rights, and the mother of the child has the power to withhold visitation if she wishes.

What Are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?

Establishing paternity can have major benefits in the state of Arizona for both the child’s parents. Without the establishment of paternity, the parental rights afforded to both legal parents are forfeit. That typically means that no visitation or physical custody can be enforced, both components of what Arizona calls “parenting time.”

If there is no legal paternity established, the father also has no part in decisions about the child’s upbringing, including decisions about education and the child’s health. The father is not afforded access to healthcare records or allowed to participate in decisions regarding how healthcare should be handled, including mental health. These are all components of legal custody, or what Arizona calls “legal decision-making” rights.

Additionally, without the establishment of paternity, a child may not have access to any health insurance or life insurance benefits, father-linked social security or government programs, or father-linked survivor’s benefits. Without establishing paternity, the state also may not be able to assess child support payments.

How Is Paternity Established in Arizona?

How Is Paternity Established in Arizona

Establishing paternity can happen in three different ways—presumptive paternity, voluntary acknowledgment, and adjudication.

Presumptive Paternity

Presumptive paternity simply means that a particular man is presumed to be the father.

In the state of Arizona, this can be the case for four distinct reasons:

  1. The father was married to the mother, or the child was born within ten months surrounding a marriage, even if it ended in divorce, annulment, or death
  2. The couple is unmarried, but the birth certificate is signed by both
  3. The couple is unmarried, but both voluntarily sign a document to acknowledge the paternity
  4. A DNA test conducted during pregnancy has previously asserted that the probability of paternity is at least 95%

Voluntarily Acknowledged Paternity

In this situation, none of the above documentation was in place during the pregnancy or at the time of the child’s birth, but both parents acknowledged the child’s paternity soon thereafter. This means that both voluntarily sign a formal acknowledgment of the paternity document, which must then be either notarized or witnessed to become valid. This form must be filed with the courts, as well as the DES (Department of Economic Security) and the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services). Such a form can also be used to negate the presumptive paternity of the married party if the mother is married, but the father of the child is not the mother’s husband.

Adjudicated Paternity

This option is utilized when the court has ordered an establishment of paternity in Arizona. This is otherwise known as a paternity lawsuit. A default judgment can be ordered if the presumed father either fails to respond or fails to file the appropriate paperwork in a timely manner. After the court’s judgment, child support will likely be ordered retroactively. Presumed fathers can also rebut the presumed paternity by filing a legal request with the court.

How Much Time Does a Parent Have to Establish Paternity?

It’s important to understand that there is a timeframe in place for establishing paternity as it pertains to child support. It can be filed or claimed either before or after the birth of the child. However, in order for the state to assess current or retroactive child support payments, paternity must be established before the child turns 18 years of age. Other than child support, other kinds of benefits like survivor’s benefits or life insurance benefits may have their own requirements for establishing paternity.

Mothers, however, have one year after the birth of the child to establish paternity via a paternity suit. However, if other factors are in place, as they often are in paternity and child support cases, this statute of limitations may be extended.

What Do You Need to Establish Paternity in Arizona?

In order to establish paternity without presumed paternity or a written acknowledgment of paternity, information about the putative father must be provided.

For example, for a mother to begin establishing paternity, she’ll likely need the following information:

  • Name, social security number, date of birth, and address of the father
  • Address and name of either a recent or current employer of the father
  • Names of friends, family members, or any organizations that the father has or does belong to
  • A photograph or a detailed physical description of the father
  • Written letters or other kinds of statements in which the father has alleged or suggested that he may be the father

Whether you are a father requesting parenting time, visitation, or legal decision-making rights or a mother requesting adjudication of paternity for child support purposes, you must ensure that:

  • The child has resided in Arizona for six months (or since birth)
  • You (or the assumed father) are an Arizona resident, you agree to have the case heard in Arizona, you lived with the child in the state, you provided funds for the child’s birth, or you informally acknowledged potential paternity in the state
  • You file a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity with DCSS, or
  • You file a petition to establish paternity with Arizona Family Court

How Does the Court Conduct a Paternity Hearing?

After either parent files a petition to establish paternity, the court will hold a hearing meant primarily to give the parties an opportunity to agree on the paternity of the child. If such an agreement occurs, legal paternity is established, and the process ends. If either party does not appear or there is no agreement, the court will schedule an evidentiary hearing.

At the evidentiary hearing, the putative father, the mother, and the child must submit DNA samples, typically obtained before the hearing via a cheek swab. Again, if the father fails to respond to the request for DNA or fails to appear, he may be subject to a default judgment and the assumption that he is, in fact, the father. DNA will establish with 95-99% certainty whether or not the man is the father of the child.

What Are the Next Steps After Paternity is Established?

After paternity is established, a child custody hearing can take place to resolve both child support and child custody matters. At this point, the father may be granted parenting time by the courts and thus be able to participate in decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. However, until paternity is established, custody cannot be enforced.

In other words, in many cases, paternity must be established for the father to participate in the child’s life and pay child support. After paternity is established, the parents can create a parenting plan that can be approved by the court. Without an establishment of paternity, child support, parenting time, and decision-making rights are informal only and cannot be enforced by the court.

Informal Parenting Agreement Vs. Court Ordered Parenting

An informal agreement between two parents can work in the short term. However, it can get complicated quickly and is not typically suitable for long-term arrangements. When there is a conflict, a court cannot enforce the terms of an informal parenting plan.

For example, a father can be at the mercy of the mother in terms of visitation and decisions regarding the child’s upbringing without a court-ordered agreement in place. It may also be the case that the father refuses to honor the informal agreement and won’t return the child to the mother after his parenting time is over. One parent may even be able to leave the state without permission from the other parent without a legally established custody or parenting time agreement.

With a court-ordered parenting agreement, a parenting plan can be stable over the long term and enforced by the court. This kind of arrangement benefits both mother and father, but it especially benefits the child. With a court-ordered parenting agreement, time and expectations are established, so all know what to expect.

Arizona Paternity FAQ

Arizona Paternity FAQ

Q: Who Can Establish Paternity in Arizona?

A: The mother, father, guardian, and even a conservator may file a petition with the courts in Arizona to establish paternity. Additionally, the state or a public welfare agency may also file a petition to establish paternity. This petition can be filed before the child is even born, but it may also be filed after the birth of the child

Q: How Can Paternity Be Challenged in Arizona?

A: In the state of Arizona, it’s possible for not only the mother or father to contest the acknowledgment of paternity but also the child. However, it’s important to note that the grounds for challenging paternity are limited to duress, fraud, or a mistake of material fact. The person who is contesting must also provide proof there are grounds for such a case.

Q: What Are the Consequences of Establishing Paternity?

A: While establishing paternity isn’t necessarily a negative situation as the term consequence may imply, one major concern could be child support payments. However, if a mother wishes to establish paternity to gain access to child support benefits, she will likely also have to relinquish not only time with the child but also some legal control over the various aspects of the child’s upbringing. Potential consequences can differ depending on the unique circumstances involved.

Q: How Does Establishing Paternity Affect the Child?

A: Establishing paternity can affect the child in a number of ways. By establishing paternity, a child may gain access to benefits that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to claim. Additionally, knowing who their father is affords the child access to medical family history or a better understanding of any potential health concerns. Establishing paternity allows the child to build and benefit from a relationship with their father and helps them learn more about themselves through the bond with their second parent.

Beginning the Arizona Paternity Process

Begin the Paternity Process

Paternity cases can be exceedingly difficult for everyone involved, but they can also help to answer many questions and provide essential rights and benefits for parents and children alike. Fortunately, establishing paternity can be achieved without hiring a specialized attorney. Draft My Legal Docs is here to help you with the forms to establish paternity in Arizona.

All our documents are drafted and approved by licensed attorneys, and we work to save you time and money by providing the accurate documentation you need for your paternity case. Contact us today to get started.

3rd Party Adoption

Exercising Third-Party Adoption Rights in AZ

Child custody can be an exceedingly difficult issue to understand. Often, due to the most unfortunate circumstances, a third party may need to seek intervention from the courts regarding custody, visitation, or placement in a home. In some situations, these children are not biologically related to the people they are being placed with. While the person seeking this decision is often a relative of one of the biological parents of the child, a close family friend, or even an ex-stepparent of the child, this can still put a great deal of strain on all parties involved.

Most frequently, Arizona’s third-party adoption or visitation rights are proposed because the biological parent or parents cannot care for the child but may have refused to allow family or loved ones any kind of visitation with the child or children. In this case, the Arizona family court must get involved in determining what is in the best interest of the child and make an official custody ruling and adoption decree.

Third-Party Adoption Rights in Arizona Explained

A third-party adoption happens when the seeking party isn’t a biological parent of the child or children but is instead a relative or close family friend. Third party adoptions stand in contrast to foster-to-adopt or general adoption situations, where the child is adopted by an unfamiliar non-relative. This can happen when either of the parents does not want to maintain custody or is deemed incapable of caring for the child or children.

These two situations tend to occur because of very unfortunate circumstances. Sometimes, parents choose to relinquish their rights, but other times, more aggressive legal action is taken when the parents are determined to remain unfit to care for the child or children.

Reasons this can happen include:

  • Abandonment or desertion
  • Abuse or extreme neglect
  • Ongoing substance abuse
  • Inability to provide for the child or children

These situations can be incredibly dangerous and damaging for the minors involved. Often, the child or children remaining with a family member or friend is a preferred solution to minimize the negative impact on the children. When relatives are capable of petitioning for adoption, the Arizona family court must decide what is in the best interest of the child or children involved.

What Is Considered the Best Interest of the Child?

Best Interest of the Child

Determining the best interests of the child and arranging custody and adoption in accordance with that determination is the primary concern of family courts. As such, it is the determining factor in adoption, custody, and visitation hearings. When it comes to the best interests of the child, the court prioritizes the welfare and safety of the child or children, specifically “all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being.”

Some of the factors the court considers regarding the child’s best interests include:

  • Any potential relationship that the child may have with the petitioning adult
  • Any relationships or interactions with siblings or other family members that may affect the child after the adoption
  • The child’s current school, home, or community attachments (in the event they need to be relocated)
  • Whether the child is of a reasonable age or maturity level to help in the decision-making process
  • The physical and mental health of all individuals involved
  • Any history of substance use, abuse, or neglect

These are all crucial factors in determining who can be granted third-party visitation, custody, or adoption. It is worth noting that often, parents do not wish to terminate their rights, and it is difficult to award custody or adoption rights to a third party. For this reason, most third-party cases in Arizona involve visitation rights only.

Important Factors for Third-Party Custody in AZ

In addition to the child’s best interests, these factors are considered when a third-party petitions for custody of a child or children.

  • Whether a third party has been acting in loco parentis for the child
  • Whether allowing the child to remain in the care of either parent would be extremely detrimental to their well-being
  • A legal decision was not made within one year prior to the current filing by the petitioner
  • Whether one of the child’s parents is deceased, the parents are unmarried, or divorce filings are pending

What Is in Loco Parentis?

In loco parentis is a Latin term that means “in place of a parent.” In the legal world, it refers specifically to a non-parent who takes on the typical roles and responsibilities of a parent.

Indicators an in loco parentis situation exists include whether:

  • The child has treated that person like a parent.
  • The person has a strong, meaningful relationship with the child.
  • That relationship has been established for a considerable length of time.

An individual acting in loco parentis could be a grandparent, aunt, uncle, stepparent, sibling, or another third party who has stood in as a parent to the child for an extended period. In loco parentis situations frequently happen in Arizona. The courts often hear cases where a party has been acting as a parent for a child, especially with blended families.

The Arizona Third-Party Adoption Process

The Adoption Process

The adoption process can be complex, even for a close friend or family member. It’s also important to recognize that third-party adoption and third-party visitation are quite different things. Visitation allows a third party to have visitation rights with a child they have a documented close relationship with—this typically applies to family members who had previously been kept from seeing the child by one or both parents. However, the parents retain parenting time and legal decision-making authority.

By contrast, a third-party adoption gives all parenting time and legal decision-making authority to someone other than the biological parents of the child. The person will then act in the interest of the child concerning medical care, schooling, religion, and other legal matters. They also take responsibility for the child’s life and must provide care for the child. This is a permanent decision that does not expire.

Third-party adoption takes place in a series of steps.

Placement with the Petitioner

Gaining legal custody or demonstrating dependence of the child is the first step in pursuing a third-party adoption in Arizona. This can be difficult, as it must be proven that the third party stands in loco parentis of the child. The third party must also show proof of the inability of the parents to care for the child and that the child may be being neglected or otherwise harmed. The petitioner and everyone in the petitioner’s home must also complete fingerprinting, submit to a federal criminal history record search, and submit to a DCS record search.

If the above-listed conditions for third-party child custody are met, the child or children can reside with the petitioner. The petitioner is then responsible for parenting and legal decision-making for that child or children. After six months, the petitioner can then petition for third-party adoption.

During this stage, petitioners must submit the following:

  • Adoptive Placement Agreement
  • Application for Adoption
  • DHS Certificate of Adoption, first two portions

Filing Final Petition Documents

For the Arizona family court to finalize the adoption, the petitioner must submit the following documents:

  • Social Study Report (at least ten days prior to the final hearing)
  • Communication Document
  • Current federal criminal history record or fingerprinting document
  • DCS registry records check document (results reviewed within 24 hours of the hearing)
  • Original Consent of Department to Adoption
  • Petition to Adopt
  • DHS Certificate of Adoption in full

Filing a petition for adoption with the courts is the next step necessary for adopting the child, but this must occur after the required six months. However, expedited adoption is possible if the child, the parent, or the petitioner have a debilitating or terminal illness; if the child is 16, free for adoption, and consents to the adoption; or if the court finds that there are other special circumstances.

The petitioner must also show notice of any proceedings and a copy of the petition to the following parties:

  • The legal parents of the child
  • The guardian or guardian ad litem(“GAL”) of the child
  • Any third party with decision-making authority for the child
  • Any agency or person who retains the child’s physical custody
  • Any person who has claims to decision-making authority for the child
  • Any other party who has appeared previously in any actions for the child

If the parents don’t object to any filings, custody rights go much more swiftly. If they do, parental rights must be terminated for the proceedings to continue. Additionally, the court cannot have made a ruling within the past year regarding legal decision-making for the child. Because Arizona doesn’t allow for shared custody between legal parents and third parties, all the requirements to terminate the parental rights must be met before proceeding.

Court Hearing and Finalization

After the Petition to Adopt has been filed, the court will provide written notification of a hearing date. Testimony regarding the biological parents’ fitness to parent (if the parents are contesting the removal of their rights), as well as the fitness of the petitioner, will be heard by the court. Information regarding the child’s best interests and why remaining with the petitioner is in the child’s best interests will be used to make the final decision. If the adoption is approved, the Order of Adoption will be submitted with the date of finalization.

Arizona Third-Party Adoption Rights: FAQs

If you have been considering establishing 3rd party adoption rights in AZ, these frequently asked questions can help you get started with the process.

Do Stepparents Have Any Custody Rights

Q: Do Stepparents Have Any Custody Rights?

While a stepparent may have been acting as a parent during the full course of a marriage, they, unfortunately, retain no legal rights to a child unless they have completed legal adoption for the child. This, however, doesn’t mean that visitation rights wouldn’t be in the best interest of the child in the event of a divorce. The same could be said for third-party adoption. If a stepparent feels that they can prove the inability of the legal parent to care for the child, then they may begin the adoption process to terminate the legal parent’s rights and gain legal decision-making authority for the child.

Q: Do Grandparents Have Custody Rights in AZ?

A: Under appropriate circumstances, grandparents and even great-grandparents have visitation as well as custody rights. Grandparents must apply for third-party visitation or custody by understanding AZ family court facts.

Q: How Do I Get Custody of My Niece in Arizona?

A: The first step is to understand all the criteria that must be met to initiate a third-party adoption and apply for placement. Submitting background check requirements, filing a Petition to Adopt with the courts, and submitting a petition fee is the next major step. Finally, the court will conduct an adoption hearing to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child and potentially finalize the Adoption Decree.

Q: What Are the Requirements for Adopting a Child in Arizona?

A: One of the basic requirements for adoption in Arizona is that the petitioner must be at least 18 years of age. The petitioner, as well as any other adults in the household, must also be able to pass a local criminal background check as well as a federal background check and DCS search. As always, the adoption must be determined to be in the best interests of the child.

Q: How Do I Know If I’m Eligible to Adopt a Child in Arizona?

A: To be eligible to adopt a child in Arizona, you must:

  • Meet the minimum age requirement of 18
  • Own or rent an apartment or home
  • Be able to pass local and federal criminal background checks
  • Pass a DCS records search
  • Own a Level 1 Fingerprint Clearance Card that has been issued by the Department of Public Safety in Arizona

Q: What Are the Rights of the Birth Parents in Arizona?

A: While both parents must consent to place a child in someone else’s care, that doesn’t necessarily terminate any contact they may have with the child in the future. Different types of adoptions allow varying levels of contact between biological parents and children, and you can decide the level of contact you are comfortable with. Additionally, for a third-party adoption to take place, parental rights must first be terminated before a new custody arrangement can be awarded or established. Parental rights are protected under the 14th Amendment, and the courts take this very seriously.

Q: How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child in Arizona?

A: The final amount it costs to adopt a child in Arizona depends on several factors. First, it depends on whether a party goes through an agency. You’ll likely have to pay agency fees that are determined by the agency itself. If parental rights must first be terminated, lawyer fees and court costs apply. Other expenses, such as travel costs and living expenses, are often a factor as well, so costs to adopt may be as high as $50,000.

Q: What Are the Resources Available to Adoptive Families in Arizona?

A: There are a variety of resources available to adoptive families in Arizona. Various governmental agencies can assist adoptive families, as well as religious resources, advocacy and information resources, and support groups. Depending on the location of the family, additional region-specific resources may be available.

Legal Documents for Third-Party Adoption Rights in AZ

A third-party adoption, like any adoption, is a decision the Arizona court never takes lightly. As a result, the court considers a variety of critical factors before impacting a child and family’s lives forever. For that reason, before proceeding with a third-party adoption, consider any requirements to make sure it is the best option possible for the child.

If you are considering establishing 3rd party adoption rights in AZ or need more information about how to proceed with a case, Draft My Legal Docs is here to help you ensure you have all the necessary documentation for an AZ legal case. Whether it’s offering guidance, providing facts and figures, or giving advice on necessary paperwork, we can find the answers. We assist with proper procedures that allow you to not just narrowly drift pass legal obstacles but absolutely thrive during the legal process.

Parenting Plan AZ

Tips For Forming a Parenting Plan in AZ

Parents can create an environment where children feel less stressed with the new changes if they work to co-parent with their child’s needs at the forefront. Establishing a parenting plan as an agreement that helps both parents get on the same page and work together is the number one way you can ease the stress on your child. In addition, drafting a parenting plan is one of several proactive ways parents can outline critical issues ahead of time to avoid conflict later.

Steps To Creating a Successful Parenting Plan in AZ

Here we will outline the most important steps to take while creating a parenting plan. Keeping these key points in mind helps you create a parenting plan that encompasses all the needs of the family and prepares you to handle critical issues before they arise.

1. Work Towards the Best Interests of the Child

When children are involved, the first step of creating any parenting plan should involve both parents making an agreement to work together for the children’s benefit. It is essential for both parents to discuss these critical aspects of the children’s lives, including physical and emotional well-being.

When relationships end, children need extra special care to adapt successfully to the new situation, and parents need to facilitate an environment that allows children to ask questions and feel supported on both ends. If you have decided to have a parenting plan, it is safe to assume that you wish for your children to have a smooth transition into this new dynamic and will make every effort to be there for them.

This involves creating a parenting plan that considers your child’s physical needs, such as shelter, medical care, diet, recreation and activities, and physical safety. Your child’s emotional needs such as mental health, education, close relationships, and socializing should also be discussed while making the plan. Covering both the physical and emotional needs of children helps parents evaluate which life aspects will have to be adjusted and which life aspects should be preserved to maintain a sense of stability for the child.

2. Create a Parenting Schedule That Works for Both Parties

The parenting schedule refers to the amount of time each parent will spend physically caring for the children and how much time the child will spend with each parent. Again, the details of the schedule will vary depending on the needs of the family members, but the goal should be to create a schedule that works for all involved.

Create a Parenting Schedule That Works for Both Parties

Another thing to remember about parenting plans is that life happens, and when it does, plans must change to accommodate new needs. For this reason, flexibility will be crucial for maintaining a parenting plan that works long-term. For some families, this means parents will work to maintain a 50/50 schedule where they aim to share an equal amount of time with the child. For others, a 50/50 arrangement may not be possible, so they will create a schedule that allows optimal parenting time without interrupting work schedules or disrupting the children’s lives.

Some examples of common parenting schedules include:

  • A biweekly rotation schedule where the child spends one week with the mother and the next week with the father.
  • A 2-2-5-5 rotation schedule where the child has two (2) days with the mother, two (2) days with the father, then five (5) consecutive days with the mother, and five (5) consecutive days with the father.
  • A 3-3-4-4 rotation schedule where the setup is like the 2-2-5-5 schedule, but the splits are 3-4 days per parent.
  • In the 2-2-3 rotation schedule, a child would spend two days in the home of the first parent, the next two days in the home of the second parent, and a three-day weekend with the first parent. In this schedule, the rotation would cycle back and forth between parents, allowing for weekdays and weekends to be shared with the children.

Remember: your parenting schedule should suit your and your co-parent’s abilities to be present for the child, so don’t force an arrangement that is unreasonable for either of you to honor consistently.

3. Be Sure to Consider Your Child’s Age and Development

How much time a child spends with each parent and the timing required to fill out the schedule will likely change as your child ages. Children have different needs as they grow and develop, especially when it comes to their parents. Consider these age and development-related considerations:

0 to 2 Years

Babies and young toddlers are still learning to trust their caregivers. They require constant care, a consistent schedule, and extremely specific feeding guidelines. Babies can become attached to a particular caregiver, especially if one parent is breastfeeding. Later, toddlers can push boundaries. At this age, it is important to consider whether both parents can care for the child overnight, whether the child has developed a bond with both parents, and which parent or parents can maintain the schedule the child has become accustomed to.

2 to 5 Years

At this age, children often experience a stronger bond with one caregiver over others. They are also learning to assert their independence and may become resistant to moving between homes; many will feel anxious about being separated from their primary caregiver. Parents can help soothe this anxiety by continuing to follow a consistent schedule and avoiding negativity or hostility at exchanges. Also, consider keeping holidays and birthdays consistent and inform children in advance, so they know what to expect.

Elementary Aged Children

During elementary school (often ages 6 to 10), children are building more independence from their parents and may be more accepting of long periods away from each other. As a result, their worry often shifts from separation anxiety to concern over losing one parent. Some even feel responsible for their parents’ separation. At this age, parents can consider creating an equal parenting plan to provide the child with the opportunity to bond with both parents and reassure them that their parents will continue to love and care for them.

Middle School-Aged Children

During the middle school years (typically ages 11, 12, and 13), children are more likely to be embarrassed or upset that their parents’ marriage is ending. They may also feel resentful at having to shift from household to household. Some even side with one parent. During this time, parents should be careful not to vent frustrations about the other parent in front of the child and be cautious about creating distance between the child and one parent. Consider involving the child in the decisions regarding where they will live and when and be sure to incorporate the child’s extracurricular activities in schedule decisions.

High School-Aged Children

High School-Aged Children

Teenagers are not only asserting their independence like never before, but are also experiencing dramatic shifts in hormones, emotions, friend groups, school life, and more. Parents should be careful to avoid involving their teenager in parenting conflicts, but also cognizant of ensuring their child knows they care about how the divorce is affecting them. While teens need plenty of time with both parents, many benefit from establishing a home base of sorts to keep things consistent for friends, school, and activities, then spending weekends and holidays with the other parent. Many teens enjoy the option of providing input on their living situation.

4. Decide How You Will Communicate

This step may seem simple, but it is just as important as the other steps in your parenting plan. You may decide to speak over the phone, via text, email, in person, or a combination of these methods. Whichever form of communication you choose, you must be consistent and respectful of each other’s needs as co-parents for your parenting plan to proceed smoothly. Healthy and consistent communication between co-parents will be another key component to maintaining harmony and helping all parties feel supported in the new family dynamic.

5. Handle Major Decisions About Childcare

If you and your co-parent both have legal decision-making authority for your child, you will need to discuss how you will make important decisions for them in your parenting plan. Take time to discuss how both parties will address issues such as education, religious practices, cultural practices, and more.

It is fine not to have all the answers up front as long as both parties agree to discuss these life areas moving forward. In addition, all must agree to keep the lines of communication open. When the time comes to make crucial decisions, remember the parenting plan, agree to compromise when possible and keep the child’s needs at the forefront of any final decisions.

6. Hash Out Childcare-Related Expenses

While legal and physical custody typically depends on the financial resources and availability of the parents, both parties are expected to be financially responsible for the child. Child support payments are often mandated in these cases to serve to cover a child’s essential living expenses.

While many of your child’s expenses may be covered with child support, it is also important for parents to discuss how any additional costs like emergencies or travel will be divided. If you need help working through these details, your attorney can assist you with documentation for financial contributions and help you create a system to keep track of the agreement.

7. Maintain the Goals Set in the Parenting Plan

For this step, we recommend that you and your co-parent keep the successful upbringing of your children as your only priority once your parenting plan is set. Ending your relationship or marriage is not ideal, but you can continue to work together to raise happy, healthy children once the union ends.

Parenting as a united front will provide a sense of stability in your child’s upbringing and help them understand that you both still have their best interests at heart. In the long run, your parenting plan will prove successful because you both decided to keep the lines of communication open, stick to a schedule you can both honor, work together to make necessary decisions, and utilize flexibility when needed.

Long Distance Parenting

Of course, it isn’t always possible for both parents to remain in the same city, state, or even region. However, if you are planning on one parent becoming a long-distance parent or moving with a child, you must have the relocation approved by a judge if there will be over 100 miles or a state line between the two homes. According to ARS § 25‐408, any move must be in the best interests of the child and consider the child’s education, friends, family ties, developmental needs, and unique needs. You will also need to make provisions regarding which parent will pay for the child’s travel expenses. Often, this is done in proportion to each parent’s earning power, but if one parent is choosing to move, they typically pay a greater portion of the costs.

Long Distance Parenting

If only a parent is moving a considerable distance away, it is important to consider the many ways this can weaken the long-distance parent’s relationship with the child. Limited physical contact and large gaps of time between visits can make it challenging to maintain a healthy relationship. If you are planning to become a long-distance parent, it is essential to create a parenting plan that outlines at least four blocks of parenting time, preferably over school breaks. In addition, be flexible and make arrangements that allow both parents the opportunity to enjoy important holidays and other special occasions with their children.

Required Parenting Provisions

Once you’ve created an outline that dictates how you will divide your parenting time, it’s time to create a parenting agreement for AZ family court that describes the decisions you’ve made.

In the state of Arizona, a parenting agreement must contain these provisions:

  • Legal Decision-Making—Often referred to as legal custody in other states, Arizona’s legal decision-making provisions will outline which parent or parents have the authority to make final decisions regarding the child’s care. Decisions can be made by one parent (sole decision-making authority) or both parents (joint decision-making authority.
  • Medical Care—Parents must provide provisions for medical care for any children with special needs. It is also required to specify who must provide insurance and whether each parent can seek medical or dental care for the children in an emergency despite the legal decision-making provision.
  • Education—Parents must create a provision describing where and how the child will attend school and participate in activities, parent-teacher conferences, and more.
  • Religion—Any religious education, or a lack thereof, must be described in the parenting plan.

You may also want to create provisions to establish guidelines for:

  • Child discipline
  • New partners
  • Communication between co-parents and between parents and children
  • Child safety
  • Resolving disagreements
  • Any anticipated changes as children age

Additional Required Statements

In addition to parent responsibilities, decision-making authority, and parenting time, you must also include several statements in the text of your parenting plan. These statements recognize that certain Arizona statutes exist and certify that you will abide by them.

Here are the required co-parenting statements your parenting plan must include a statement that:

  • Acknowledges ARS §25-403.05 (B) – certifies you and your co-parent will notify one another immediately if someone convicted of a sex crime has access to your child.
  • Acknowledges ARS §25-403.06 – certifies both you and your co-parent will have access to the child’s school, medical, and legal records unless the court orders otherwise.
  • Certifies both parents will follow the established parenting plan during any dispute until the dispute is settled.
  • Certifies both parents can petition the court to enforce any violations of the parenting time plan.
  • Outlines any history of domestic violence, including allegations of domestic violence.
  • Makes the court aware of any domestic violence allegations, DUI, or substance use within the last twelve months and outlines both parents’ reasoning why the court should determine shared custody is in the best interests of the child.

Help with Your Parenting Plan in Arizona

Drafting a coherent and cohesive parenting plan in Arizona can seem daunting if you do not have experience with the law. Trust Draft My Legal Docs to assist you with the process and remove the stress from your planning. We specialize in helping families create and draft documents that outline the implementation of cooperative parenting dynamics for Arizona court and mediation.

Our licensed attorneys can help you develop a parenting plan that works, support you with any legal issues that may arise during the filing process, and ensure your parenting plan includes the necessary components. Don’t take on the task of drafting your parenting plan alone. Let our team of experts walk you through the process and provide sound guidance you can trust.


Divorced Gay Couple

Supreme Court asked to rule in divorced gay couple’s child custody case

PHOENIX — Saying biology matters, an Arizona woman is making a last-ditch effort in court to keep from being forced to share custody of her child with her former wife.

Keith Berkshire, attorney for Kimberly McLaughlin, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn last year’s ruling by the state’s high court, which concluded that Suzan McLaughlin had the same right to claim parentage as if she had been Kimberly’s husband.

In legal pleadings, Berkshire acknowledged the historic 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that concluded that states must extend the right to marry to same-sex couples.

The justices expanded on that two years later, spelling out that same-sex couples must have access to the “constellation of benefits that the state has linked to marriage.”

But Berkshire contends nothing in either ruling requires states to ignore the biological fact that men and women are different — and that, by definition, two women cannot both be the biological parent of a child born to one of them. That, he said, undermines the decision of the Arizona Supreme Court to effectively rewrite a statute that says only men are entitled to the presumption of “paternity” of a child born during a marriage.

In the legal filings, the attorney also takes a slap of sorts at the Arizona Supreme Court, saying the justices effectively adopted a statute dealing with how paternity cases are handled in cases of artificial insemination, a statute that, while approved in other states, had never been enacted by lawmakers in Arizona.

What the U.S. Supreme Court decides could have implications on other cases involving child custody and support: A ruling against Berkshire would undermine arguments by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and the Center for Arizona Policy that just because same-sex marriages are legal does not void state laws that differentiate between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples.

That’s not just an academic argument.

In writing last year’s ruling, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales said he reads the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage to “require a reassessment of various state statutes, rules, and regulations to the extent they deny same-sex spouses all of the benefits afforded opposite-sex spouses.” That includes taxation, property rights, hospital access, adoption rights and more.

Court records show Kimberly and Suzan, legally married in California in 2008, agreed to have a child through artificial insemination using an anonymous sperm donor.

Kimberly became pregnant in 2010. The couple moved to Tucson, entered into a joint-parenting agreement and executed mirror wills, declaring they were equal parents to the child.

After the boy’s 2011 birth, Suzan stayed home and cared for him while Kimberly worked as a physician.

When he was nearly 2, Kimberly moved out, taking the boy with her and cutting off his contact with Suzan.

In filing for divorce, Suzan sought parenting time, citing an Arizona law that says that the husband is the presumed parent of a child born within 10 months of a marriage.

When a trial judge agreed to let the case proceed, Kimberly appealed, saying the paternity presumption law, by its plain wording, applies only when the other spouse is a man.

Berkshire said the Arizona Supreme Court, in agreeing Suzan could use the paternity statutes to be declared one of the boy’s parents, ignored both the reason legislators wrote the law the way they did as well as basic biology.

 “Specifically, when a woman is married to a man and becomes pregnant, it is not only possible but also likely that her husband is the biological father of her child,” he wrote in his petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“When a woman is married to another woman, it is impossible for both women to be biologically related to the child,” he said. “A statute that acknowledges this biological fact does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment,” which guarantees equal protection under the law.

Berkshire said Suzan might have a claim if she and Kimberly lived in a state like Oregon, New Jersey or New York. Lawmakers in each of those states have adopted measures, based on a model statute, which spell out that if a child is born to a woman through artificial insemination, her husband is automatically treated as if he were the child’s biological parent.

“Arizona does not have an artificial insemination statute, and Arizona is not required to enact one,” the attorney told the justices. But he said the ruling written by Bales effectively “circumvented the legislature” and enacted the model law.

“But this is not the court’s role,” Berkshire said. “If this court or constituents are dissatisfied with the state of our current laws, the proper forum to advocate for change is in the legislature, not the courtroom.”

The attorney said the Arizona Supreme Court intruded into the realm of state lawmakers by concluding the paternity statutes had to be read and enforced in a gender-neutral fashion.

He said it was “beyond the Arizona Supreme Court’s domain to rewrite the statute in order to conform with any perceived public policy.”

Source: “”, Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services, 01/15/2018.

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