What is Paternity?

Paternity simply means fatherhood. A paternity action is a lawsuit to establish the who is the true father of a child. While a child born to a married couple is presumed to be the child of the wife’s husband, a child born outside a marriage has no presumed father. In such a circumstance, Utah paternity law allows a child’s mother, a child’s father, or the State of Utah file an action to establish paternity.

Why Establish Paternity?

Why is establishing paternity important? There are several reasons:

  • Child Support: Utah law requires a father to support his child, even if he is not married to the child’s mother.
  • Citizenship: A child’s parents provide citizenship. If a child is born to an American father and a foreigner mother, establishing paternity may provide the child with American citizenship.
  • Social stigma: Establishing paternity may lessen the still-prevalent social stigma against children with no known fathers
  • Benefits: Without establishing paternity, a child will have no right to inherit a father’s benefits, such as Social Security and veteran’s benefits.
  • Rights: Upon establishing paternity, fathers are afforded the right to request visitation and custody or their child, as well as the right to make important decisions regarding their child.

How to Establish Paternity.

There are two ways for unmarried people to establish paternity in Utah. The first involves both parties signing a voluntary declaration of paternity and then submitting the declaration to the Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics. (Note: Voluntary declaration can be signed after the birth of the child, and signers have sixty days after signing to withdraw their signature.) The second involves filing a paternity action in court. When an action is filed, a mother will need to prove that the man being sued is the father of her child. If paternity is disputed, a court will often order genetic testing. You should choose an experience family law attorney to help you with your Utah paternity action.

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