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Protection for Unmarried Parents in Arizona

When it comes to child custody, visitation, and other parental rights, unmarried parents are entitled to many of the same protections as their married counterparts. In Arizona, the main factor that courts look to when making decisions that relate to children is whether the action is in the best interests of the child rather than the marital status of the parents.

Establishing Paternity

There is one main distinction between unmarried parents and married parents with regard to paternity: Unmarried fathers must first establish paternity prior to gaining parental rights and responsibilities. An unmarried mother has sole legal authority and can make all decisions for the child until paternity has been established. After establishing paternity, the father can pursue court action for legal decision making (which is equivalent to primary custody in other states) and parenting time (which is equivalent to visitation in other states) in Arizona.

Explanation of Protection for Unmarried Parents in Arizona

Although an attorney is the preferred resource for obtaining the specific meaning in statutes, it's also useful to understand the law when it's presented in a plain language explanation. See the chart below for a summary that uses everyday terms to explain the protection for unmarried parents in Arizona.


Arizona Revised Statutes:

Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time Rights

Legal Decision Making

This refers to the ability to make legal decisions for the child including decisions regarding education, health care, and religious training.

Parenting Time

The physical custody of the child and the time spent with the parent.

Father's Rights in Arizona

Although an unwed mother is presumed to be the sole legal decision maker prior to an establishment of paternity, this is not true after the man is determined to be the legal father.

The state has protection for both parents and states that each parent should have "frequent, meaningful, and continuing time" with their children. The court must adopt a parenting plan that maximizes the parents' respective parenting time and provides for both parents to share legal decision-making; the court can't favor a parent's proposed plan because of the parent's or the child's gender.

Parents Rights in Arizona: Notice about Child Relocation

If (by written agreement or court order) both parents are entitled to joint legal decision-making or parenting time and both parents reside in the state, at least 45 days advance written notice must be given to the other parent before a parent may do either of the following:

  • Relocate the child outside the state; or
  • Relocate the child more than 100 miles within the state.

If the parent doesn't comply with notice requirements, then the court can impose sanctions that will affect legal decision-making or parenting time.

Parents Rights in Arizona: Notice about Threats to the Child

A parent must immediately notify the other parent if they know that a convicted or registered sex offender or a person who has been convicted of a dangerous crime against children may have access to the child.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Protection for Unmarried Parents in Arizona: Related Resources

An Arizona Attorney Can Answer Your Parenting Rights Questions

If you're an unmarried parent in Arizona, you'll likely benefit from the same protection afforded to married parents. However, you may also encounter unique challenges like establishing paternity that only apply to unmarried parents. Contact an experienced Arizona attorney today with your parenting rights questions and concerns.

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