Issues regarding paternity between cohabitating couples

Traditional views towards marriage in America have changed. Many more couples are choosing to cohabitate without getting married. Some of these couples are also raising children together. Because they are unmarried, cohabitating couples often encounter difficulty when trying to obtain benefits and other care for their shared children. For that reason, it is important that unmarried couples establish paternity for their shared children.

There are many benefits to establishing paternity. Not only does it cement the bond between a father and child, but it can also provide certain legal and medical protections. For example, after paternity is established, the child's rights to the inheritance of his father's life insurance, veterans benefits, Social Security benefits and other privileges are protected.

Additionally, there is an inherent social bond that is established when paternity is determined that may help a child form its identity and solidify his/her relationship with the father's side of the family.

Arizona law also provides a remedy for mothers of children who want to establish the paternity of their child when the suspected father denies parentage. Those mothers can petition a family court for a paternity order. A suspected father can be compelled by the court to submit to genetic testing that can then establish whether or not he is the biological father. Arizona presumes paternity of man who possesses genetic material that reflects a 95 percent chance that he is the child's father.

After the paternity has been genetically proven, the court will then issue an order that names the biological father as the child's legal father.

Many cohabitating couples have questions regarding the cost of DNA testing and who is responsible to pay the cost for the test. It is important to note that the state of Arizona will pick up the tab in advance, but the suspected father must first sign a promise to repay the state if the test later reveals that he is the biological father. The state of Arizona will also make payment arrangements and accept monthly installments regarding the DNA costs.

Source: Arizona Department of Economic Security, "Paternity frequently asked questions" Jul. 30, 2014

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