Unmarried Parents: Establishing Paternity

If you have doubts about whether or not you are a child’s father or just want to establish paternity to pursue your parental rights, genetic testing makes it possible to establish paternity with nearly 100 percent accuracy. A simple DNA test that requires a swabbed sample from both parents and the child is all that it takes to determine paternity. Establishing the paternity of children born in wedlock is a straightforward process since it is assumed that the child in question belongs to the husband. However, when an unmarried couple has a child, the process is a bit trickier.

One way that some Utah couples choose to establish paternity out of wedlock is by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. This form requires both parents to sign together; many do so at the hospital following the birth of the child, but the form can also be filled out later. Once the form is filed with the Department of Health’s Vital Records and Statistics office, the father’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate and he gains certain parental rights. This is an easy and fast route to establish paternity when paternity is not in question.

If there is a dispute in paternity – either by the father or the mother – then a DNA test is the most expedient way to determine paternity once and for all. Either parent (or even the child) can file a petition for adjudication of paternity with the juvenile district court in the city in which they live. If the father or the mother denies paternity, the court can order genetic testing. Once the results are received, the court issues a paternity order to make the paternity official.

It is not uncommon during this type of family court proceeding to not only establish paternity but to also have the court decide on issues such as child support, child custody, and visitation. A Salt Lake City family law attorney can help you file the necessary paperwork to get started on your paternity case and help you navigate the complex family court system. In Utah, the Office of Recovery Services usually offers DNA testing free if someone is receiving public assistance for the child. In all other cases, the parent requesting the test will be required to pay for it.

Establishing paternity has greater implications than just having a birth certificate that reflects the child’s true parentage. It allows children to have a relationship with both the mother and the father, ensures the sharing of medical histories, and allows the child to benefit from health insurance from both parents. It also ensures that both parents can share the costs of raising the child as well as the responsibilities that come along with being a parent.

Emy A. Cordano has helped many unwed parents establish paternity, child custody, and child support through the court system. Schedule a legal consultation today with our Salt Lake City family law attorney to assess your situation and get the ball rolling on your paternity case.

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