Meaning and Legal Importance of Establishing Paternity
What Does It Mean to “Establish Paternity”?
To “establish paternity” means to decide who a child’s legal father is.
How Can Unmarried Parents Establish Paternity?
In Utah, parents who were not married when the child was born have three options for establishing paternity:
- The administrative process done through ORS
- The court process
- The hospital or at-home process done by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
What Does Paternity Establishment Have to Do with Child Support?
The law requires a child’s legal parents to support their child.
The mother’s legal ties to a child are set at birth. When the parents are not married, the father’s legal ties are set through paternity establishment.
Once paternity is established, the child’s father has to support their child in keeping with child support laws.
What Authority Does ORS Have to Establish Paternity?
The Utah Administrative Procedures Act gives ORS the authority to establish paternity through an administrative process.
Our administrative process does not involve the court system. Our orders still have the same effect as court orders, but cannot address custody or visitation.
Establishing Paternity through ORS and in Court
Someone Thinks I Am the Father of a Child. How Can I Make Sure I Really Am?
You should not sign the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity if you doubt that you are the father. Genetic tests can tell if you are not the father.
If you have an open child support case with the Office of Recovery Services, you may ask for genetic testing. We usually provide these at no charge before paternity and child support are established.
In What Situations Will ORS Try to Establish Paternity and Child Support Orders?
In Utah, ORS tries to establish paternity and child support orders in three situations:
- Cash Assistance or Medicaid. If a family receives Cash Assistance or Medicaid, their case automatically comes to ORS
- Children in care. If children are put in the custody of the state, their case automatically comes to ORS
- An application from a parent, relative, or legal guardian
ORS cannot get involved with custody and visitation issues. You need to use an attorney or represent yourself in court to settle questions about custody and visitation.
I Have an Existing or Pending Court Order to Establish Paternity and Child Support. Can I Still Use ORS’s Paternity Establishment Services?
Court orders for paternity or child support have more authority than orders from ORS.
If you already have a court order about paternity or child support, make sure that ORS knows that. We also need to check whether the language in the court order works to establish paternity. The kinds of court orders that might establish paternity include divorce decrees and some Juvenile Court orders.
If you open a case with ORS to establish paternity or child support while also working with the courts on the same issues, we may refer the case to the Attorney General’s office. The goal would be to intervene in the pending court action.
Do People under the Age of 18 Have to Worry about Paternity and Child Support?
People younger than 18 can still be named the father of a child. They may also be ordered to pay child support.
Even without an income, a teen could be ordered to pay child support. To estimate the child support amount, use our calculator.
The Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
What Is a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
Unmarried parents can acknowledge paternity of a child born in Utah by signing the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity by Parents. This is a legally binding form from the Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics.
Should I Sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
You should not sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity in any of these cases:
- Either parent is not certain who the father is.
- Either parent does not understand the legal consequences of signing the form.
- The mother is married and her husband is not the father of the child. This can only be done if the husband, the wife, and the biological father are all willing to sign the form.
Is There a Deadline for Signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
No. Parents can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form at any time after the birth of a child.
If parents sign the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity after leaving the hospital or birthing facility, they have to file the form directly with the Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics. The father’s information will be printed on later versions of the birth certificate.
The Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics may charge fees associated with filing the form. Contact them for details.
Can ORS file the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity for Me When Establishing Paternity and Child Support?
No. You must file the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity directly with the Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics.
What If I Change My Mind after Signing the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
Can I Get a Copy of My Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
You can also get copies from the Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics and all local health departments.
What if I was in a same sex relationship and we had children?
ORS can provide some services to establish parental obligations for same sex parents in limited situations. Contact us and we’ll see what we can do for you. If you already have documents that establish parentage, ORS can help establish child support and medical support orders.
Changing Paternity That Was Already Established
Paternity Has Already Been Established for A Child. Can I Change That?
The process of changing who is considered a child’s legal father is called “paternity disestablishment.”
Contact us for more information about paternity disestablishment.