Arizona and federal laws have made strict provisions regarding parental rights, though laws have had to change with the times, both in terms of currently acceptable behavior and in terms of modern technological advances. Examples of why parental laws have to be kept up-to-date are not hard to come by. Just think of “DNA paternity tests” and “surrogate mothers,” terms that had no meaning 50 years ago. At Cohen Family Law, our capable family law attorneys keep apprised of all changes to state and federal laws so we have ample ammunition to fight for your right to maintain close connections to your offspring and not be imposed upon to support someone else’s.
Parental Rights Solutions For Clients Throughout Arizona
Cohen Family Law serves clients involved in issues concerning parental rights throughout the Phoenix area, including Mesa, Glendale, Surprise, Scottsdale, Chandler, and Tempe. Some of our clients are seeking to establish paternity. Some are trying to retain or reclaim the right to their children through social services. Others are attempting to untangle complex family relationships through negotiation and litigation. Now that many parents have children without getting married, and now that gay marriage is legal throughout the country, it is even more important to have a parental rights attorney who understands the intricacies of parental law in Arizona.
As Phoenix parental rights attorneys, Cohen Family Law strongly advocates for the right of fathers to play a role equal to mothers in their children’s lives. Now that Arizona recognizes equal rights and responsibilities of divorced and unwed fathers, we are able to assist biological fathers with establishing their kinship through paternity (DNA) tests. We also protect the rights of husbands who have played the role of the father in the household even when “their” children have proven to be genetic offspring of other men. It is interesting to note that even if the biological father does not want to have an active relationship with his child or children, the law still requires him to provide them with financial support as long as they are minors.
Generally speaking, men are presumed to be fathers of children:
- Whose mothers they are married to at the time of conception
- Whose birth certificates state they are the biological father
- They have legally adopted
- For whom they have filed a claim as putative (alleged) father
- Who DNA testing has proved with 95 percent certainty are their offspring
Special laws, as spelled out in the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) apply if the child is, or may be, Native American. No matter what your specific parental rights situation is, our attorneys are prepared to assist you.
Paternity suits, typically solved through genetic testing, may be brought by the presumed father (in many cases the husband of the biological mother), the mother, or a man who claims to be, or is accused of being, the child’s father. In some cases, if the child is a minor, a government agency may appoint a representative to act on behalf of the child by filing a paternity suit to see that the biological father contributes financially to the child’s care. Cohen Family parental rights attorneys are equally committed to being your advocate whether you are attempting to stake a claim to your parental rights or defending yourself against a false claim that you are the father of a child that is not really yours.
Gay Parents Have Equal Rights Under Arizona State Law
Late in 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court issued an extremely important decision relative to parental rights in gay marriages. The highly anticipated decision unanimously affirmed the equal rights of same-sex parents in the state. The ruling requires Arizona to apply the same standards of parentage to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. In other words, the state can no longer use lack of biological links to discriminate against gay parents.
Since the Arizona Supreme Court decision, Arizona law makes a “presumption of paternity” in opposite-sex relationships. The law now permits same-sex couples the same “constellation of benefits” as opposite-sex couples. This means that both partners in a same-sex marriage have presumed parenting rights of any children of that marriage, whether either spouse is or is not biologically linked to the child. Both parents also, of course, have parental rights to a child they have adopted as a couple
At Cohen Family Law, we fully support gay parental rights, agreeing with the Arizona Supreme Court majority that “to deny a parental presumption to same-sex spouses would perpetuate [an] unconstitutional stigma.” If you are a gay parent you can expect Cohen Family attorneys to fight strenuously for your rights and to treat you with the respect and compassion you deserve.
Parental Rights and Responsibilities
In Arizona, a father has a right to play a meaningful role in his child’s life on a regular basis, including:
- Spending parenting time with his child
- Having a right to shared or sole custody of his child
- Supporting his child financially according to a legally binding agreement
- Being notified of potential adoption, even if he is not married to the child’s mother
If the father is not married to the mother of the child, he can get himself listed in Arizona’s “putative father registry” within 30 days after the child’s birth, in which case the state will make every effort to connect him with his child.
Severance of Parental Rights
No matter how sacred parental rights are considered to be, the safety and well-being of the child supersede such rights. There are, therefore, circumstances under which parental bonds may be legally severed. This may occur voluntarily, such as when teenage, addicted, gravely ill, impoverished, institutionalized or incarcerated parents consent to give their child up for adoption.
It may also occur involuntarily when one or both of the child’s parents are found to be seriously negligent or abusive. Cases of suspected negligence or abuse may be reported by the other parent, relatives, friends, neighbors, educators, law enforcement officials, medical personnel, or any concerned party. Once reported, the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) will be called upon to investigate the family in order to check to make sure any children are being well tended and are in a safe, caring environment. It is important to recognize that even if your family is investigated by DCS, it does not mean you are in imminent danger of having your child/children removed from the home. Only 10 percent of DCS reports result in a child being removed from the household. Also, many children are taken away from their parents only temporarily.
Reasons for Termination of Parental Rights
As one would assume, all states, including Arizona, will only legally terminate parental rights when it is absolutely necessary for the safety and well-being of the child. A proceeding to dismantle a family in this way is only initiated if the child is found to be in physical or emotional danger. Examples of parental behavior that may lead to termination of parental rights (which may, in some cases, be reversed at a later date) include:
- Chronic physical or sexual abuse of the child, or of other children in the household
- Abandonment of the child
- Long-term illness or chronic substance abuse of the parent
- Felony conviction of a parent or parental incarceration
- Mental deficiency/ psychiatric illness of the parent that prevents proper care of the child
Involuntary termination of parental rights is always considered a last resort. Whether you are trying to save a child from abusive treatment or inadequate care, or fighting for your right to maintain parental rights after being falsely accused of mistreating your child, Cohen Family Law can help. We are dedicated to protecting your rights and the rights of your child.
Contact Our Phoenix Parental Rights Attorney
We will never prejudge you or your case. We only want to help you in your struggle to pursue justice. As you can see, there are complex legal, financial, and emotional issues involved in parental rights cases. At Cohen Family Law you will find attorneys ready to help you handle the logistics and reduce the stress of situations fraught with challenges. We are up to the task. You can trust us to help you navigate the legal system and protect you and the well-being of your child. Remember that your initial consultation is free. Please get in touch with us by phone or by filling out one of the contact forms on our website.