As of 2016, nearly 40% of all births involved unmarried individuals. That is over 1.5 million children. Utah has far fewer unwed births than most other states—only 19%–but they still affect a large number of people. Because of the prevalence of unmarried births, it is important to consider the rights of both parents when children are born out of wedlock.
While it is a good idea to speak with a Salt Lake City family law attorney about many of these issues, this post is designed to help you understand some of your essential rights as a parent under Utah law.
Primary Custody Falls to the Mother
Mothers have a natural right to their child because of the birthing process. As a result, the mother’s rights are automatically superior to the father and any other person that may be involved in the child’s life. The father only gains rights by taking legal action to obtain those rights. He must do this by establishing paternity. If the father takes no action, the mother will automatically have both legal and physical custody of the child.
Establishing Paternity in Utah
The husband in a married relationship is automatically considered the father in Utah. However, when a couple is not married, the father must take action to obtain rights to the child. In many situations, the father will sign a “Voluntary Declaration of Paternity” in the hospital where the child is born. If the mother contests the paternity or is unsure who the father is, then the man can undergo a paternity test to establish his biological connection to the child.
Establishing paternity is essential because without it the father will not have any rights to the child. This includes being able to set custody or visitation. The child will also not have any of the following rights regarding the father:
- Inheritance rights
- Health insurance benefits
- Social Security insurance benefits
- Veterans’ benefits
Mothers often want to establish paternity so that their children can have these specific financial rights. Mothers also cannot receive child support until paternity is established.
Child Custody and Taxes for Unwed Parents
Only one parent can claim a child as a dependent for tax purposes if they are unmarried. The person that claims the child on their taxes can change yearly. Many parents will work out a plan to use this tax benefit.
The child tax credit increases for 2018, so this benefit is particularly relevant for parents this year. Your family law attorney in Salt Lake City will be able to help you work out these details between parents.
Getting Legal Help as an Unmarried Couple
Unmarried couples can create their own custody arrangements without going through a contested court proceeding. In fact, when the couple sits down and develops these plans on their own, that is when they work the best, and they have the highest chance of long-term success. You can create something that works for your situation instead of having a judge tell you what your custody arrangement should look like.