Utah Paternity FAQs
What is paternity?
Paternity means fatherhood. When a married woman gives birth, her husband is presumed to be the father of the child. When a child is born outside of marriage, the father of the child does not automatically have the same rights and responsibilities as the father of a child born in marriage. The law allows the mother, child, father or State of Utah to prove that a man is the father of a child. When this occurs, the child's paternity has been established.
Why is it important to establish paternity?
Paternity establishment is important for many reasons. Some include:
- Support: The law requires both parents to support their child. This is true even when parents are not married to each other.
- Medical: A child may need to know if she/he has inherited any special health problems. In case a child or parent needs a donor for a transplant, knowing who the members of the immediate family are is important.
- Citizenship: Parents provide the child with citizenship and/or nationality. If one parent was not born in the United States, his/her place of origin may provide important rights to the child.
- Benefits: Without paternity establishment, a child is not legally entitled to any of his/her father's benefits including: Social Security insurance benefits, inheritance rights, veteran's and other benefits.
- Rights: When paternity is established, the father has the same rights as a father of a child in a marriage. These include such rights as the ability to address custody and visitation issues with the court, and to give other input into decisions regarding the child.
How can unmarried parents establish paternity?
There are two ways:
- The mother, father, child or the State may file a legal action to declare that a man is the father of a child who was born outside of marriage. This can be done judicially (in court) or administratively (by the State of Utah) and may involve genetic testing.
- Parents can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form and file this declaration with the Department of Health/Bureau of Vital Records. When a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form is signed by the child's mother AND father, and the form is witnessed by two individuals that are not related to you and filed with the Bureau of Vital Records, paternity is established. If the father is under the age of 18, his parent or guardian must also sign the form.
How do I know if I should sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
A mother or father of a child born outside of marriage is not required to sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. If the Declaration is signed, it is legally binding on the mother and the father. A Voluntary Declaration should not be signed if:
- The mother is married, her husband is not the father of the child and the husband, the mother and the father of the child are not all willing to sign the Voluntary Declaration form;
- The mother or alleged father is not certain that the alleged father is the child's father; or,
- Either parent does not understand the legal consequences of signing the form.
IMPORTANT: BEFORE SIGNING THE VOLUNTARY DECLARATION FORM, BOTH PARENTS MUST LISTEN TO AN ORAL PRESENTATION: DIAL 1-800-662-8525, THEN PRESS 2, 6.
Is there a deadline for signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form?
No. Although the forms are provided at the time of a child's birth for parents to sign, the forms may be signed at any time after the birth of a child. However, as long as both parents voluntarily agree to sign the form, there are benefits to signing at the time of the birth of the child. If the forms are filled out in the hospital or other facility where the birth occurred, the staff of the facility will file the completed form with the birth certificate information. Also, the only way to get the father's name added to the original birth certificate when the parents are unmarried is to have the form transmitted with the birth certificate for registration. If parents obtain the form at a later date, they must file the form with the Bureau of Vital Records.
What if I change my mind after signing the form?
By law, you have up to 60 days or until the date a child support order is established, whichever is earlier, to rescind (or nullify) the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form. Rescissions are handled by the Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Records, and must be in the format outlined in state rules (Link www.health.state.ut.us/bvr ). When one parent requests a rescission, the other parent will be notified by mail at the address listed on the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form. This notice will explain the effect of the rescission and the procedures that must be followed if the parents would like to change the child's name as a result of the rescission. When a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form is rescinded, it will be as though it never existed and the father's name will be removed from the child's birth certificate. If you are a father under the age of 18, your parent or guardian must also sign the rescission documents.
Please keep in mind that although a rescission nullifies the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity document, paternity can still be established in the future by other means as mentioned earlier. If you have any questions about rescission, you may call the Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Records at (801) 538-6105).
Is there a fee for filing or getting copies of the form?
If the affidavit is completed within one year of the child's date of birth, there is no fee for filing it, but there is a $12.00 fee, which includes a certified copy of the amended certificate. If it is filed after one year, there is a $20.00 fee for registration of the affidavit, which includes one certified copy of the amended certificate.
Where can I get a copy of the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form?
Copies of the form are provided by health care facilities to unmarried parents when a child is born, and are also available at the Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, all local health departments, all Office of Recovery Services offices and Department of Workforce Services offices. It is important that the form is typewritten or carefully printed, except for signatures. If the forms are not neat or cannot be read, they will be refused for filing and must be completed again.
What does paternity establishment have to do with child support?
When paternity is established, either by the proper filing of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form, or by a court or administrative order, this establishes a legal obligation for a father to support a child. Because both parents must support a child, when the parents do not live together, the parent without physical custody of the child is required to pay a set amount of monthly support to the parent with physical custody of the child.
What about custody and visitation?
Custody and visitation issues should be spelled out in a court order. This must be done even if paternity was established by a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. Both parents have the right to ask the court for custody. If parents cannot agree on visitation issues, the court will decide these issues as well. Federal law prohibits the Office of Recovery Services from being involved in establishing or enforcing custody and visitation issues.
If someone says you are the father of a child, how can you make sure that you really are?
You should not sign the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form if you have any doubts about whether you are the father of a child. There are very accurate genetic tests available which will absolutely exclude you if you are not the father. You may have to pay for the costs of the test (currently about $350) if you are determined to be the father.
Do persons under age 18 have to worry about paternity and child support?
Yes. Minors can still be named the father of a child and may be ordered to pay child support. The law bases child support amounts on the parents' incomes but even without income, a teen could be ordered to pay a monthly child support amount. Child Support Guideline worksheets are available at all Office of Recovery Services offices and all Utah Court Clerk offices.
How can I get help with child support, custody and visitation issues?
In Utah, the Office of Recovery Services' Child Support Services and Children in Care programs pursue paternity establishment and child support collection in two situations:
- • When someone is receiving public assistance or if children are put in the custody of the state, ORS receives the case automatically; and
- • When someone applies for services because they need help obtaining or updating an order and collecting child support.
By law, ORS cannot get involved with custody and visitation issues. To have these issues addressed, you must hire a private attorney or represent yourself in a court proceeding.
-- Utah Department of Human Services