What is a Petition for Parentage?

Starting the Utah Child Custody Process

You may have received a court document from your ex recently. If that document was a Petition for Parentage (also called a Complaint for Paternity), then you have started the child custody process.

In Utah, a Petition for Parentage is the document that lets the court know that someone wants to deal with custody.

Wish Lists

Petitions for Parentage are odd things, to be honest. They are more like wish lists than anything else. They lay out what one person wants in the custody case if that person could get everything magically handed to them on a silver platter. They are, in a word, unrealistic.

This is important to keep in mind for a couple reasons. First, unless you do nothing and default (very bad idea), your ex will not get all the stuff he or she asks for in the Petition for Parentage. Second, if you filed first, you won’t get all the stuff you ask for.

So, a Petition for Parentage lays out the extremes in a custody case. And because most custody cases are mediated, good attorneys use Petitions for Parentage (and the counter-petitions) as markers for negotiation.


Sometimes there are things in a Petition for Parentage that are non-negotiable. For example, you may feel very strongly that your kids need to be with you most of the time, so you ask for primary physical custody (this is a fancy lawyer way of saying your kids are with you more than 70% of overnights in a year).

If you have some non-negotiables, make sure you tell your attorney about them up front. That way your attorney knows what is most important to you and can talk you through what it means for that issue to be non-negotiable.

And, please, try not to have too many non-negotiables in your Petition for Parentage. The more you have the more you will spend on your child custody case. Principles matter, and they cost.

Time to Respond to a Petition for Parentage

If you receive a Petition for Parentage, a clock starts ticking and you have a certain amount of time to respond — twenty-one if you were served in Utah.

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