How do unwed fathers in Utah establish paternity?

Since they are not automatically afforded their rights as fathers, unmarried men must take action to legally establish paternity for their kids.

Over the years, the face of the nuclear family has changed in Utah and throughout the U.S. More people are defining their relationships in their own terms, and are choosing to have children out of wedlock. Unlike when married couples have a child, there is no assumption as to the identity of a child's father when unwed couples have kids. Thus, in order to be legally guaranteed the right to develop a relationship with their child, unmarried fathers must take action to establish paternity.

There are numerous benefits to establishing paternity for unwed fathers, as well as for their children. Once they are legally established as a child's father, men are permitted to seek custody or visitation, as well as the right to be involved in the decision-making regarding their child. This legal action may provide children with valuable insight into their family health history, and entitle them to financial support, medical insurance and other benefits from both of their parents.

Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity


The easiest path for unmarried fathers to establish paternity is through a voluntary acknowledgment. In cases when there is no dispute regarding a child's parentage, the mother and father may complete and sign a declaration of paternity form. They may be provided with this document at the time of the child's birth, but there is no deadline for when it must be filed. If people do not complete the voluntary acknowledgment at the hospital or birthing facility, they may file it later with the Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics.

Administrative paternity order

If there is a dispute or parents otherwise choose not to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, a child's parentage may also be established through an administrative order. The process of obtaining an administrative paternity order is initiated when one parent applies for child support services. Prior to establishing a child support award, the Office of Recovery Services may order genetic testing and establish paternity.

Court-ordered paternity judgment

Perhaps the most complex path to establishing paternity in Utah is through a judicial paternity order. Either parent may file a petition with the court to establish the child's parentage. In such cases, family law judges may hear evidence, review facts and order genetic tests to determine the likelihood that a man is a child's biological father. Once a judicial paternity order is issued, unmarried fathers' rights go into effect and their names may be added to their children's birth certificates.

Seeking legal assistance

While it may seem straightforward, taking up their responsibilities as fathers may be complicated for some unmarried men in Utah. Disputes between unwed parents may keep children from developing the meaningful parent-child relationships they need and deserve. Therefore, men who have fathered children out of wedlock may benefit from discussing their options with an attorney. A lawyer may help them understand their rights, as well as determine how best to proceed given their unique circumstances.