How Long Does a Father Have to Establish Paternity in Utah

Jeremy AtwoodPaternity

father with paternity established with son

For most parents, having a baby is one of the happiest times in their life. Moms automatically know they’re connected to their newborns, but dads might need to prove it.

When a child is born to a married couple, the mother’s spouse is recognized as the legal father. However, if the parents aren’t married, or if the biological father is someone other than the mother’s spouse, the biological father needs to take certain steps to establish legal paternity. 

In this post, our family law attorneys in Utah explore the timeframe a father has to file a paternity action. We’ll also shed light on a few associated legal aspects, including child custody. 

Understanding Paternity in Utah 

Paternity means being legally recognized as a child’s father. In Utah, this affects several important things, like who has the right to make decisions for the child, who should pay child support, and who can see the child and when. 

Getting paternity sorted puts the legal backing behind your fatherly role. There are multiple ways to achieve this.

1. Voluntary Declaration of Paternity

The most straightforward way to establish paternity is through a voluntary declaration. When both parents agree on who the father is, they can fill out and sign a ‘Voluntary Declaration of Paternity’ form.  

Often, this is done right at the hospital as soon as the child is born, but it can be completed later. Once this form is signed and filed with the Utah Department of Health, the father’s name can be added to the birth certificate. 

2. Paternity Action through the Courts 

If there’s any disagreement about who the father is, or if the father wants to establish paternity but the mother is not cooperative, then they might need to go to court. The process starts with filing a paternity action, usually in the district court of the county where the child lives.  

Here’s what that process typically involves. 

  • The father files a legal petition in court stating his intention to establish paternity. 
  • The mother is legally notified of the paternity suit. 
  • The court may order DNA testing for the mother, child, and presumed father to establish biological paternity. 
  • A judge will review the DNA test results along with any other relevant information. 

If paternity action is established through the court, the judge will issue an order declaring the legal paternity status. 

3. Administrative Order by the Child Support Services Office

In case there’s an issue with child support, either parent can also seek an administrative order through Utah’s Office of Recovery Services (ORS). The ORS can issue an order of paternity and take steps to establish child support, which might include DNA testing.

Why Establish Paternity?

Before getting into the details of how long a father has to establish paternity, let’s talk about why it’s important. 

For the child, paternity tests create a legal connection to their father. Besides letting them know who their dad is, it helps with their sense of identity and gives them emotional support. Plus, it opens up access to practical things like health insurance, social security benefits, and inheritance rights later. 

For the mother, establishing paternity means she can share parenting responsibilities and duties with the father. She can also get child support, which can help cover costs like food, clothing, and school expenses for the child. 

For the father, this is his ticket to being officially recognized as the child’s parent. This lets them ask for custody or visitation rights, so he can spend time with his child and be involved in their life. 

How Long Does a Father Have to Establish Paternity?

There’s no strict deadline for setting up paternity. However, there are a few other practical timelines you should keep in mind.

From Birth to Age 18 

A father can start the process to establish paternity any time before his child turns 18. If that window closes, the child themselves can take it up until they turn 22. 

Why Sooner is Better 

Technically, you have until the child is 18, but it’s better to handle it much earlier. Getting paternity sorted out early helps everyone deal with important matters, like who gets custody, how visitation is going to work, and setting up child support.  

The sooner you get these things figured out, the better it is for the child because they get the financial and emotional support they need right when it matters most. 

Additionally, establishing paternity early on avoids a lot of potential headaches. You won’t have to rush through legal processes in a panic down the line, and it helps make sure the father has a meaningful relationship with their child from the start.

Key Considerations in Paternity Cases 

When dealing with paternity cases, there are a couple of big things to keep in mind. 

Get a Good Lawyer 

Navigating the family scene in Utah can get tricky. That’s why it’s important to hire a sharp family lawyer in Utah. They know the ins and outs of the law and can make the whole process smoother. They’ll guide you through each step, help with paperwork, and make sure you understand what’s happening and what your options are. 

Keep it Quiet and Respectful 

Paternity cases are personal. Apart from the legal discussions, there are a lot of emotions involved. You want to make sure that the situation is dealt with in a way that respects everyone’s privacy and feelings. Doing this can make the process less stressful for everyone, especially the child.

The Bottom Line 

Establishing paternity is a big step for any dad wanting to confirm his role in his child’s life. In Utah, the law gives you until the child’s 18th birthday to establish paternity, but it’s usually better to handle it sooner rather than later.

Dealing with paternity actions and child custody laws in Utah can be overwhelming. If you find yourself in this boat, don’t hesitate to reach out to the family law attorneys at Jeremy Atwood Law. We can help you navigate the complex legal waters of paternity testing, so your rights are looked after every step of the way. Contact us today!