Experienced Paternity Attorneys Serving Ogden Utah
Paternity refers to the identity of a child’s father. Fatherhood brings parental rights such as the custody, visitation, and the ability to decide matters of the child’s care, education and well-being. There is also the responsibility to provide care and financial support. Establishing paternity — especially through a court proceeding– is also important if you wish for a child to inherit through you, receive Veteran’s or Social Security benefits as your survivor or dependent or have status as a citizen.
How is Paternity Determined?
Utah law generally affords four avenues to establish that someone is the father of a child.
When a child is born to a married mother, the husband is presumed to be the father. Utah law also applies this presumption of paternity where a child is born within 300 days after death, divorce or annulment ends a marriage.
Should the mother and father divorce or separate, disputes arise as to who will have custody, visitation rights and the receipt of support for the child. In such proceedings, the paternity is generally not in controversy because marriage creates a presumption. However, that presumption is rebuttable. A paternity test constitutes one way if you believe you are not in fact the child’s father.
Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
With a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP), unmarried parents agree in a signed writing that the putative father is in fact the father of the child. Utah’s Office of Vital Records and Statistics adds the father to the birth certificate once the office receives the voluntary declaration for filing. So long as the child has not reached six years old, the filing of a voluntary declaration allows the change of the child’s name without a court order.
If you as a putative father question your paternity (or if you are a mother who questions paternity), you likely want to avoid signing such a declaration. You have sixty (60) days to rescind or change your mind. Otherwise, your recourse is to prove that you signed the declaration due to fraud, duress or that both of you were mistaken on the facts that led you both to sign the declaration. You have four years from signing the declaration to rescind due to a mutual mistake of fact. A paternity test can establish that mutual mistake of fact.
Administrative Paternity Order
Through a “Notice of Agency Action,” the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) begins the process of collecting child support from the alleged father. ORS becomes involved when one of the parents seeks support and applies for services. Absent an in-force Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, ORS can order testing or use other methods to establish paternity and a support order.
Judicial Declaration of Paternity
You might wonder why you need a court order of paternity if the ORS has already determined it. Federal law prohibits ORS and other child support agencies from passing on questions of child custody and visitation.
To obtain child custody or visitation, you need to file a lawsuit. If you are the father and the mother contests that fact, you will need a court to rule on your paternity. Court proceedings for paternity may avail you for questions about support obligations or citizenship of your children. The Utah court system affords parties the option of using the Online Court Assistance Program to start claims for custody, support, or paternity. However, the skill, knowledge and experience of a parental rights lawyer can help you marshal the facts, evidence, and circumstances to pursue your claims.
We Can Help Your Paternity Case
Paternity affects the ability of children to inherit or claim survivor benefits through you. It also brings to you legal rights and responsibilities. Whether you want to pursue paternity or if you oppose it, contact us for a consultation about your standing as a parent and what that can mean for you. Our attorneys act as a trusted legal advocate on behalf of both you and your child. We can help guide and assist you through the entire process of establishing paternity, while always ensuring your rights as a parent are protected. We serve Ogden, Weber County, and the surrounding areas; call or contact our office online for a confidential case review.