Establishing paternity in Utah: What every unwed father should know

Since paternity is not presumed when children are born out of wedlock, unwed fathers in Utah must establish paternity to enact their parental rights.

Over the years, the family landscape in Utah, and throughout the U.S., has changed. Sometimes, a couple may not be legally married when they decide to have a child. Unlike when married couples have children, however, unwed fathers are not assumed to be their child's biological father. Instead, men who are not married to their child's mother must take steps to establish paternity.

There are a number of reasons why it is important for unwed fathers to establish paternity for their children. In addition to providing their children with a sense of identity and family, doing so also entitles them to certain parental rights. This includes seeking child custody, visitation and parenting time, as well as the right to be involved in important decisions regarding their child's health, care and upbringing. Furthermore, children are not entitled to some benefits, such as Social Security Disability Insurance, health insurance and financial support, through their fathers until paternity has been established.

Declaration of paternity

Perhaps the easiest way to establish paternity in the state for unwed parents is through a declaration of paternity form. This form states that a man is a child's biological father and must be signed by both parents. This form is filed with the state's Office of Vital Records and Statistics and will see that the father's name is added to the child's birth certificate, according to the Utah State Courts. Sometimes, parents who use this option may also decide to establish custody, parenting time and support arrangements. In these cases, those agreements must be filed with the court for them to be considered court enforceable.

Judicial order

Paternity may also be established in Utah through a judicial paternity order. These orders are the result of court actions. In order to start this process, one parent or the other must file a decree of parentage with the court. Should either parent contest this petition, the court may order genetic testing in order to determine paternity. Once this order has been issued, the father's name is added to the child's birth certificate and he may use his parental rights to seek custody or visitation time with his child.

Administrative order

The third method for establishing paternity in Utah is through an administrative order. Typically, this method is used when one parent or the other applies for support from the state. The Office of Recovery Services will issue a notice of agency action to both parents and allow each time to respond. If necessary, genetic testing may be ordered in order to determine if a man is a child's biological father.

While this type of order does not involve the judicial court system, it has the same effect as a judicial order, according to the Utah Department of Human Services. Following an administrative paternity order, the biological father's name is added to the child's birth certificate and he has all of the legal rights afforded to biological parents.

Seeking legal counsel

In some cases, the process of establishing paternity in Utah may be difficult for unwed fathers. As such, men who are not married to the mothers of their children may benefit from working with a legal representative. An attorney may help them to understand the process, as well as their rights and options.