To “establish paternity” means to decide who a child’s legal father is.
Parents who are married when a child is born establish paternity automatically.
Parents who were not married when the child was born have three options for establishing paternity in Utah:
- The administrative process done through ORS
- The court process
- The hospital or at-home process done by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
The Administrative Process for Paternity
Utah law gives ORS the power to establish paternity.
ORS starts the process by sending you a document called the Notice of Agency Action. This document either gives you an appointment date for genetic testing or instructions for requesting that testing if paternity needs to be established.
If you are not certain the father listed in the Notice of Agency Action is the child’s biological father, participate in genetic testing before doing anything else to establish paternity.
Genetic testing is normally free for people with an open case with ORS.
The Court Process for Paternity
There are three ways that courts commonly establish paternity:
- Judicial paternity orders. The Utah Courts’ paternity page describes how this works
- A divorce decree. These can establish paternity when they identify the husband as the father. This is done using phrases such as “child of the marriage” or “issue of the marriage.” A decree can also establish paternity by ordering the father to support the child. An exception is when the order specifically says the husband is not the father
- Juvenile Court orders. The Juvenile Court order must directly say that someone is the father of a child, but a Juvenile Court order has the same force as any other process. This is true even once that person becomes too old for Juvenile Court
A court order about paternity can only be changed, set aside, or terminated by a later court order. A genetic test done after the court makes the order cannot, by itself, change the court’s paternity decision.
The Hospital or At-home Process and the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
Unmarried parents can acknowledge paternity of a child born in the state of Utah by signing the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity by Parents. This is a legally binding form from Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics.
Many people sign the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity in a hospital or birth facility soon after the baby is born. If you do this, the child’s original birth certificate will include the father’s name.
The form may be also signed by the parents after leaving the hospital or birthing facility. This can be done at any time after the child is born. When the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form is completed after leaving the hospital, the father’s information will be added as an amendment to the original birth certificate.
Both parents need to sign the form. And they have to sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are not related by blood or marriage. The witnesses also need to sign the form.
If either parent is under the age of 18, the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity must also be signed by that person’s parent or legal guardian.
Hospitals and birthing facilities usually file completed Voluntary Declaration of Paternity forms, but you can do it yourself. The forms must be filed with the Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics.
ORS cannot accept or file Voluntary Declaration of Paternity forms.
When You Should Not Sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
You should not sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity in any of these cases:
- The mother is married and her husband is not the father of the child. But this can be done if the husband, the wife, and the biological father are all willing to sign it
- Either parent is not certain who the father is
- Either parent does not understand the legal consequences of signing the form