The legal rights of children born to married parents are automatically established at birth. However, in cases involving children born to unmarried parents, “paternity” (also referred to as “parentage”) must be established in order to formalize certain rights and responsibilities. Paternity can be established by multiple methods of varying complexity and effort.
- The simplest method is when both parents sign and file a voluntary declaration of paternity.
- Another option is to involve Utah’s Office of Recovery Services (“ORS”) and obtain an administrative order.
- The final method involves filing a formal petition for paternity with the court.
Requesting an administrative order from ORS is relatively simple for the requesting party, but ORS cannot decide important provisions related to custody and parent time. ORS is limited to initiating and enforcing child support and other financial obligations between the parents. A formal court order is necessary to adopt a detailed parenting plan that includes provisions regarding parent time and parental decision making authority.
Your Parental Rights
A parenting plan will likely be the most important section in the final decree of paternity, so it’s important to get it right and be as detailed as possible. In cases involving parents who have had trouble cooperating, a parenting plan should include plenty of details that will govern the parental rights and responsibilities of the parties. For example, a parenting plan should at a minimum, allocate amounts of time the child will spend with each parent.
In the event of disagreement, courts and mediators routinely rely on default statutes that award a minimum of parent time to one of the parties. The parenting plan should also assign legal custody and specify a decision-making process in the event the parents disagree on an important decision regarding the child. Important decisions are controlled by the parent (or parents) who are given legal custody of the child. Legal custody revolves around areas such as extracurricular activities, education, religious worship, medical treatment, and access to information.
The decree of paternity should also include sections that describe the child support obligation of the parties. Child support is calculated using a combination of factors such as the number of children, the parties’ income, and the number of nights spent with each parent. Mediation is often a helpful method of reaching a resolution to a paternity action without resorting to prolonged litigation.
Because the establishment of paternity can involve important areas such as custody and child support, parents should seek the assistance of an attorney to ensure their interests are aggressively protected.