When an unmarried couple has a child, paternity is not a given. In the eyes of the law, the mother is the sole parent of the child. A father is not recognized as having legal rights in relation to the child until paternity is established. Once the court recognizes that paternity exists, the father will have the same rights and responsibilities as the mother. Several steps are required to successfully establish paternity in Utah.
Paternity is simply a legal recognition of fatherhood. Pursuant to Utah Code 78B-15-202, paternity grants a father the same rights as would exist in a marriage. Most men want to prove paternity in order to obtain child custody or visitation rights. However, paternity also has direct benefits for the child. Through paternity, children can take advantage of the following:
- Economic support
- Insurance benefits
- Social Security insurance
- The father's medical information
Ways to Establish Paternity
Utah's family law provides three different avenues for establishing paternity. First, a parent (or the state) can file for a determination of paternity. The court will order a DNA or blood test that will support a judgment. Second, both parents can file a Declaration of Paternity with the court. Third, a parent can get an Administrative Paternity Order in conjunction with applying for child support. However, when using the third option it is important to recognize that the Office of Recovery Services cannot enforce child custody or visitation rights. Thus, the fail-safe way to establish paternity is through a court order.
What to do About Disagreements Concerning Custody
Obtaining recognition of paternity is just the initial step in fatherhood. Once a father has legally established his rights, he will need to determine how they will be used. In some situations, the father and mother will have disagreements about the child rearing process. Such disagreements may also concern child support, visitation and custody. If no compromise can be reached, it is recommended that the parents seek a court order to clearly define the parameters. Doing so will help both parties fulfill their responsibilities, and provides enforcement authority if problems arise.
If you need assistance in the paternity process, contact Spencer and Jensen, PLLC. An experienced custody lawyer can assist you with divorce, visitation rights, and child custody matters.