Children born out of marriage are no longer considered a taboo. In fact, the United States has one of the highest numbers of unmarried childbirths. As of 2020, the percentage of births to unmarried women has increased to 40.5%. This number was just 18% in 1980.
However, unmarried childbirth can lead to legal complications. When a married couple gives birth, the legal presumption states that the husband is the child’s father. But there is no such presumption when an unmarried couple gives birth.
Unfortunately, most people do not recognize these legal complications. That’s why you are best off consulting an experienced child custody lawyer.
Let us learn more about paternity action in Utah.
Paternity Action in Utah: Know Your Rights as Unmarried Parents
As you may already know, all parents have the right to access to their children. You also have the right to raise your children as you see fit. But if you are an unmarried parent, consult a skilled Utah child custody lawyer first. It’s the best way to understand where you stand as a parent.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind.
A. Why Establishing Paternity Is Vital?
As mentioned before, when a child is born to a married couple, the husband is presumed to be the father. However, paternity does not automatically established when children are born out of wedlock. In this situation, you need to establish your paternity (as a father) voluntarily or through court proceedings.
If the paternity is not established:
- The mother of the child cannot seek child support.
- The father of the child cannot seek visitation rights.
- The mother of the child can deny visitation.
But most importantly, the child without established and documented paternity will have no legal claim on their father’s inheritance or financial benefits. In other words, you should consult a Utah county child custody lawyer as soon as possible. A skilled lawyer can help you establish your paternity and clarify legal ambiguities.
B. Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement
Utah recognizes voluntary acknowledgment of paternity by the father by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. As a father, signing this document will guarantee you all the rights and obligations associated with this role.
In Utah, the hospital will present you (the father) with this form after the baby is born. All you have to do is sign this form. There is no need to go for a paternity test.
However, you (the father) will have to take the paternity test if someone contests it. This could be anyone, including a family member, the mother of the child, or anyone else. In such situations, it’s best to speak with a seasoned child custody lawyer.
C. Who Gets the Custody When Parents Are Unmarried?
As child custody lawyers, we often come across this question. One of the most critical factors you need to remember is that the father, whose paternity is not determined, may not be able to gain custody rights. Usually, natural or primary custody gets awarded to the mother by default.
On the other hand, the father whose name isn’t on the birth certificate has to wait until the paternity test comes through. He will have no right to custody until the test determines who the father is and the biological father renounces his custody rights.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t get primary custody of the child. As a father, you can get primary custody under the following circumstances.
- The unmarried mother abandons, neglects, or abuses her child. In this case, you can ask the court to hand over the primary custody to you (as a father) with the help of an experienced child custody attorney in Utah.
- The court might also award primary custody to you if the mother’s parental rights are legally disputed.
However, you can get primary custody only if the paternity has been established legally. If there is a custodial dispute or any other issue, consult a child custody lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you understand your legal options as a father, whether or not you need to get paternity confirmed, among other things.
D. Parenting Plan Is a Must for Unmarried Parents
Although unmarried, you are going to need a well-thought-out parenting plan. Creating a plan will help you and the other parents to raise your child properly. A parenting plan provides your child with a structured family environment, helping them thrive as they grow up.
And unlike divorcing parents, you can get your parenting plan formalized. You can approach the court to make it an enforceable court order. You don’t need legal intervention if both parents agree to a parenting plan.
However, it is best to get everything formalized to avoid complications down the line. But you are going to need a competent child custody lawyer on your side. Only a seasoned lawyer can help you understand what you can do to get everything formalized.
Here’s what a well-crafted parenting plan looks like.
- It should include a detailed schedule to meet what your child needs.
- It should clearly outline how you and the other parent will make parenting decisions such as education, discipline, medical care, and religious upbringing.
- It should also spell out how you will share child-rearing expenses. As you can imagine, this section of your parenting plan primarily talks about child support.
- The plan should also talk about how you (both parents) will communicate with each other. This is a critical element in your parenting plan. It lays the foundation for resolving your parental disagreements.
- It should also discuss visitation rights and schedules. As a father, you should have enough access to your child. You can work this out with the help of a skilled child custody attorney.
As you can see, unmarried childbirth can lead to several legal complications. But as a father, you have the right to see your child and be a part of their life. Plus, you also have to fulfill your parental obligations. However, you will need to proceed with caution. One misstep can land you in trouble. Worse still, you could jeopardize your role and right as a father. So, speak with a child custody lawyer as soon as possible.
Are you looking for a child custody lawyer in Utah? Contact Jeremy Atwood Law, LLC. Our experienced child custody lawyers can help you find the best possible solution. Contact us today!