Parents: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is "paternity?"
  2. What is "paternity establishment?"
  3. What if the mother is married, but her husband is not the biological father of the child?
  4. Why is it important to establish paternity?
  5. What does paternity establishment have to do with child support?
  6. What does paternity establishment have to do with custody?
  7. What does paternity establishment have to do with parent time (visitation)?
  8. How can I get help with child support?
  9. How can I get help with custody?
  10. How can I get help with parent time (visitation)?
  11. Do persons under 18 have to worry about paternity and child support?
  12. How can you be sure that you are really the father?
  13. How can unmarried parents establish paternity?
  14. What is a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP)?
  15. How does the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity work?
  16. Where can I get and sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
  17. How much does it cost to establish paternity using a Voluntary Declaration of
  18. What issues can the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity resolve?
  19. Is there a deadline for signing a VDP?
  20. What if I change my mind after signing the VDP?
  21. What is an administrative paternity order?
  22. How does the administrative process work?
  23. Where can I establish paternity with the administrative process?
  24. How much does it cost to establish paternity using the administrative process?
  25. What issues can an administrative paternity order resolve?
  26. What is a judicial paternity order?
  27. How does the judicial process work?
  28. Where can I establish paternity using the judicial process?
  29. How much does it cost to establish paternity using the judicial process?
  30. What issues can a judicial paternity order resolve?
  31. Where can I get more information about paternity establishment?

Overview

1. What is "paternity?"

"Paternity" means fatherhood; in particular, fatherhood that is recognized legally.

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2. What is "paternity establishment?"

When an unmarried mother gives birth, the biological father of the child does not automatically have any of the legal rights or duties that go along with fatherhood. The law allows the mother, child, father or State of Utah to legally establish that a man is the father of a child. When this occurs, the child's paternity has been established. "Paternity establishment" gives unmarried parents all of the same rights and duties that married parents have when a child is born.

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3. What if the mother is married, but her husband is not the biological father of the child?

When a married woman gives birth to a child, her husband is presumed to be the father of the child. The husband has all of the legal rights and responsibilities of fatherhood until an order or Utah Voluntary Declaration of Paternity "disestablishes" paternity.

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Rights and Responsibilities

4. Why is it important to establish paternity?

Paternity establishment is important for many reasons. Some of the reasons include:

FINANCIAL SUPPORT
The law requires both parents to support their child. This is true even when parents are not married to each other. Paternity establishment allows the child to receive financial support from both parents.

MEDICAL
Paternity establishment permits the child to be added to the father's, as well as the mother's, medical insurance.

FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY
A child may need to know if she/he has inherited any special health problems. Paternity establishment may help doctors to research the child's family health history. In case a child or parent needs a donor for a transplant, knowing who the members of the immediate family are is important.

BENEFITS
Without paternity establishment, a child is not legally entitled to any of his/her father's benefits including: Social Security insurance benefits, inheritance rights, veteran's and other benefits.

RIGHTS
When paternity is established, the biological father has the same rights as a father of a child born in a marriage. Paternity establishment permits the father to pursue the rights that go along with fatherhood, including custody, parent-time (visitation), and decision-making regarding the child.

CITIZENSHIP
Parents provide the child with citizenship and/or nationality. If the father was not born in the United States, his/her place of origin may provide important rights to the child once paternity is legally established.

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5. What does paternity establishment have to do with child support?

Both parents have a responsibility to support the child. When paternity is established, the father legally gains his portion of this responsibility. Because both parents must support a child, even when they do not live together, the parent without physical custody of the child is required to pay a set amount of monthly support to the parent with physical custody of the child.

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6. What does paternity establishment have to do with custody?

Paternity establishment gives the father rights, including the right to pursue custody. If the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the parents should address custody issues in a court order.

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7. What does paternity establishment have to do with parent time (visitation)?

Paternity establishment gives the father rights, including the right to pursue parent time (visitation). If the parents cannot agree on a parent-time schedule, the parents should address parent-time issues in a court order.

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8. How can I get help with child support?

The Office of Recovery Services offers services to establish paternity, to establish child support and medical support orders, and to collect/enforce on child support and medical support orders. Either parent may apply for services with our office. For more information about the Office of Recovery Services, see their website at www.ors.utah.gov. Private attorneys can also assist you with child support issues.

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9. How can I get help with custody?

ORS cannot get involved with custody issues due to restrictions on the use of Federal funding. To have these issues addressed, you must hire a private attorney or represent yourself in a court proceeding.

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10. How can I get help with parent time (visitation)?

ORS has no jurisdiction over parent-time issues due to restrictions on the use of Federal funding. To have these issues addressed, you must hire a private attorney or represent yourself in a court proceeding.

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11. Do persons under 18 have to worry about paternity and child support?

Yes. A minor can still be named the father of a child and may be ordered to pay child support. The law bases child support amounts on the parents' incomes, but even without income, a teen parent could be ordered to pay a minimum monthly child support amount.

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Genetic Tests

12. How can you be sure that you are really the father?

Very accurate genetic tests are available which will tell you whether you are the father of the child or not.

Genetic tests require a DNA sample from the parents and from the child. The sample is taken by rubbing a buccal swab (like a cotton swab) inside of the mouth. It is also possible to obtain a DNA sample by drawing blood, but that is not as common now as buccal swabs.

The DNA samples are sent to a lab for analysis, and the results are usually back within a month.

There are many companies available for genetic tests; however, be sure that they are accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) if you want the tests to be used as legal evidence.

The Office of Recovery Services offers genetic testing services, usually FREE, if the parents have an open case for paternity establishment and child support services.

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13. How can unmarried parents establish paternity?

There are three easy ways to establish paternity in Utah:

For more details on each method of paternity establishment, read the questions and answers below.

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Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP)

14. What is a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP)?

The VDP is a form issued by the Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics. Unmarried parents can sign the VDP to voluntarily say that a man is the biological father of the child and that he should be legally recognized as the father.

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15. How does the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity work?

The mother and the biological father read a legal notice and either watch a short movie or listen to a recorded message to learn about the VDP. Each parent then signs the VDP in front of two witnesses (who also sign the document). The signed VDP is then filed with the Office of Vital Records and Statistics.

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16. Where can I get and sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

You can sign the VDP at the following places:

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17. How much does it cost to establish paternity using a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

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18. What issues can the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity resolve?

The VDP

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19. Is there a deadline for signing a VDP?

No. Although the forms are provided for parents to sign at the time of a child's birth, the forms may be signed at any time after the birth of a child.

However, if both parents voluntarily agree to sign the form, there are benefits to signing at the time of the child's birth:

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20. What if I change my mind after signing the VDP?

You have up to 60 days or until the date a child support order is established, whichever is earlier, to rescind (or nullify) the VDP. Rescissions are handled by the Office of Vital Records and Statistics.

When one parent requests a rescission, the other parent will be notified by mail at the address listed on the VDP. This notice will explain the effect of the rescission and the procedures that must be followed if the parents would like to change the child's name as a result of the rescission.

When a VDP is rescinded, it will be as though it never existed and the father's name will be removed from the child's birth certificate. If you are a parent under the age of 18, your parent or guardian must also sign the rescission documents. Please keep in mind that although a rescission nullifies the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity document, paternity can still be established in the future by other means as mentioned earlier. If you have any questions about rescission, you may call the Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics at (801) 538- 6105.

Once the time period allowed by law for rescissions has passed, Utah law only allows VDPs to be challenged in court based on fraud, duress, or material mistakes of fact. (Material mistake of fact can only be claimed for up to four years from the date of the VDP.)

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Administrative Paternity Order

21. What is an administrative paternity order?

Under the Utah Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA), certain state agencies are granted authority to establish legal and binding orders against individuals. The Office of Recovery Services has been granted this authority and uses the administrative process to legally establish paternity for children.

The administrative process does not involve the judicial court system, but an administrative paternity order has the same effect as a judicial paternity order.

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22. How does the administrative process work?

To begin the process, one of the parents must apply for child support services with the Office of Recovery Services. Once the case is open, both parents will be served with a Notice of Agency Action (NAA). The NAA provides proposed child support amounts, information about medical insurance coverage, and a list of options available to each parent after receiving the notice.

If paternity needs to be established, the NAA will either contain an appointment date for genetic tests or instructions about how either parent can request genetic tests. If either parent is not certain that the father listed in the NAA is the biological father of the child, it is very important to have genetic tests BEFORE paternity is legally established. In most cases, genetic testing will be provided to the parents for FREE when they have an open case with the Office of Recovery Services.

After the parents have had time to respond to the NAA, to provide more information, or to request genetic tests, the administrative paternity order is issued.

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23. Where can I establish paternity with the administrative process?

The Office of Recovery Services/Child Support Services (ORS/CSS) is the only state office that uses the administrative process to establish paternity. ORS offices are located in the following cities:

The application for services may be obtained in the following ways:

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24. How much does it cost to establish paternity using the administrative process?

Paternity and order establishment services are FREE at the Office of Recovery Services/Child Support Services.

A schedule of fees charged for various collection services that may occur after paternity and child support are established is included with the application for services. However, the parent who applies for paternity establishment may choose to close the case after the paternity order is issued instead of using the child support services offered by ORS/CSS.

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25. What issues can an administrative paternity order resolve?

An administrative paternity order

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Judicial Paternity Order

26. What is a judicial paternity order?

A judicial paternity order is the result of a court action in front of a judge or commissioner.

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27. How does the judicial process work?

The parents may hire attorneys or represent themselves in court. Both parents receive court documents and have an opportunity to provide more information to the court. After all issues are resolved, a judicial paternity order is issued.

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28. Where can I establish paternity using the judicial process?

In Utah, you can obtain a judicial paternity order from:

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29. How much does it cost to establish paternity using the judicial process?

There are a variety of fees associated with the judicial process. These fees may include:

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30. What issues can a judicial paternity order resolve?

A judicial paternity order

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Contact Information

31. Where can I get more information about paternity establishment?

Click here to contact Paternity Matters for additional information about paternity establishment.

Or, you may contact one of the following resources:

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American with Disabilities Information

If you need help with translating, reading and/or understanding the forms, or if you have other needs or disabilities which interfere with the paternity declaration process, make the health care facility or state agency aware of your needs. In accordance with the Americans with Disability Act, reasonable accommodations will be made to assist you.

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