Written by attorney Allison M. Limb

How to Establish Paternity in Utah

In Utah, an unwed father does not have an automatic constitutional right to parenthood. Rather, he has the meaningful chance to preserve the opportunity to develop a relationship with his child. In re Baby Girl T, 2012 UT 78. In other words, if an unwed father wants to ensure that he has a chance to have a relationship with his child, he must be proactive.

When a married woman gives birth, it is presumed that her husband is the father of the child. With this presumption comes certain rights and responsibilities. The father has the right to visit and have a relationship with the child. The father is also responsible for helping support and raise the child. Fathers who have children outside marriage do not automatically receive these same rights. In order for an unmarried father to receive the rights and responsbilities, the child's paternity must be established.

In Utah, the mother, child, father, or state can establish that the man is the father of the child. There are a few different ways paternity can be established: the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, administrative actions, and judicial action.

Parents can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form in front of two adult witnesses, both unrelated to either the mother or the father. If the father is under 18, his parent or guardian needs to sign the form as well. There is not a deadline for filing this form. Hospitals will typically provide this form to the new parents shortly after the child's birth. If not, then one may be obtained frm the Department of Health, Vital Records, and Statistics.

The Office of Recovery Services can establish legal and binding orders of paternity and child support. This process does not involve the courts, but has the same effect as a court order. Any parent involved in this type of administrative action will be served with a Notice of Agency Action. This Notice will give specific informaiton about the case and list the options available to each parent after they receive the notice.

Paternity may also be established through a civil proceeding. In Utah, paternity must be established by "clear and convincing evidence" or in other words, the evidence must show that it is highly probable or reasonably certain that the man is the father of the child. This can be determined by a DNA test or circumstantial evidence. A DNA test is typically used when one party contests or objects to the paternity claim. Circumstantial evidence is any evidence that is gathered by inference. An example of this would be a man publically acknowledging that the child is his own, bringing the chld to his home, or providing some financial support for the child.

Establishing paternity is important for all parties involved. It enables the father to have the right to visit and get to know the child. The mother is able to get support from the father. However, determination of paternity is most important for the child. The benefits to the child are more than financial. The child is able to know his or her father. The child has a right to inherit from the father, have knowledge of the paternal family's medical history, and receive any benefits from government or court proceeeding if the father is to have an untimely or unlawful death.

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