A single night of romance can provide the gift that keeps on giving. For unmarried men who want to be involved with the care and feeding of that precious bundle of joy, this article is a must read. Arizona is all about strict compliance with statutory procedures to establish paternity and your right to notice of a prospective adoption. You can lose your parental rights unless you act quickly and comply with the statute.
If you are an unmarried father (or claim to be one) and you want to receive notice of adoption proceedings, you must file a notice of claim with the state registrar of vital statistics in the Department of Health Services. This is called the Putative Father’s Registry. The statute section is A.R.S. §8-106.01.
The Department of Health Services provides the forms. These forms are also available in numerous places, including hospitals, DES, sheriff’s office, correction facilities, and your county board of supervisors offices.
The notice will include your claim of paternity and your willingness and intent to support the child to the best of your ability. You must also include your address, the name and last known address of the birth mother and either the birth date of the child or probable month and year of the expected birth. You must also keep the registrar of vital statistics notified of any change in address. Your notice is confidential and will only be released to certain agencies or professionals, for example, the court, an adoption agency, or a licensed attorney participating in the adoption.
You can file it any time before the birth of your child. But you must file it within 30 days after your child’s birth.
You will forever waive your right to be notified of any court hearing regarding the child’s adoption and your consent to adoption will not be required.
This is a strict statute with harsh consequences. In one recent high profile case, the Father had even filed a paternity petition in California and objected to the severance of his rights in Arizona. But that was not enough as it did not constitute compliance with the registry statute. Strict, not substantial, compliance is the standard.
The only exception is if you can prove, by clear and convincing evidence (which is a very high standard), both of the following:
- It was impossible for you to file within the time period; and,
- You filed a notice of a claim of paternity within 30 days after it became possible for you to file.
In two words: “too bad”. Lack of knowledge is not an acceptable reason. The fact that you had sexual intercourse with the mother is deemed to be notice to you.
If the mother denies that you are the father, DHS will notify you of your responsibility to establish paternity.
It’s still too bad. This does not excuse compliance with the registry requirement. In a recent case, the Arizona Supreme Court denied the Father’s fraud claim. Its reason: had the legislature wanted fraud to be an exception to strict application of the statute, it would have said so.
If an adoption petition has been filed, you are entitled to be served with the notice of an adoption of your child. Within 30 days of service of the notice, you must file a paternity action. If you don’t do this, you will be barred from bringing or maintaining any action to assert any interest in your child.
One way is for both the mother and father to submit a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity on a form issued by the Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES). It’s called an “Acknowledgment of Paternity”. ADES will then amend your child’s birth certificate to show that you are the father. You must file the Acknowledgment with the clerk of the superior court (in Tucson, that would be Pima County Superior Court), the Department of Economic Security (DES) or the Department of Health Services (DHS). The statute is A.R.S. §25-812.
Once filed with the Court, the Acknowledgment has the same force as a court order. There is an exception. Either of you can rescind the Acknowledgment within 60 days after you both signed it or by the date of a child related court proceeding, whichever is earlier. (See A.R.S. §25-812. H-J). After this time, it can be challenged only on the basis of fraud, duress or material mistake. The burden of proof is on the challenger.
You should file a petition to establish paternity with the Superior Court. There is a lot more to this, which will be the subject of another blog coming soon.