Paternity means fatherhood. When a child is born to people who are married to each other, the husband and wife are recognized as the parents of the child, and the mother and father have the same rights and responsibilities under the law.
When a child is born to people who are not married to each other, the father of the child does not automatically have these same rights and responsibilities until paternity is established.
What should be done when a child is born during a marriage and the husband is not the child's biological father is beyond the scope of this page. Talk to an attorney for advice. See the Finding Legal Help web page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help.
Adoption - protecting the father's rights
A man who has had a sexual relationship with a woman is on notice that the woman may become pregnant, and that she may put the child up for adoption.
If the father thinks the mother may try to put the child up for adoption, he should seek legal advice immediately.
The unmarried father will be permanently precluded from claiming any rights unless he has previously established that he is entitled to notice of an adoption proceeding. See Utah Code section 78B-6-110(3).
To protect his rights and interests, an unmarried biological father must strictly comply with the steps below, even if he doesn't know the mother is pregnant. See Utah Code section 78B-6-110(3).
- File a paternity (parentage) action in a district court in Utah.
- Complete and file a Notice of Commencement of Paternity Proceeding form with the Utah State Office of Vital Records.
- File an affidavit in the paternity action stating that he is able to have full custody, support the child, and pay for expenses of the mother's pregnancy and childbirth.
- Offer to pay and actually have paid a fair amount of the expenses incurred in connection with the mother's pregnancy and childbirth, in accordance with his financial ability, unless he is unaware of the pregnancy or he was prevented from paying.
If the father does not live in Utah and does not know that the mother has given birth in Utah, his rights will still be terminated unless he has followed the requirements in the state where he has been living.
If the father does not live in Utah and does know the mother is giving birth in Utah, he must complete the steps above.
Establishing paternity for unmarried parents
There are three ways to establish paternity in Utah when the parents are not married to each other:
- Both parents may sign and file a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form as described in Utah Code Section 78B-15-302.
- If a parent applies for child support services through ORS, they can obtain an administrative paternity order through the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) once paternity is verified.
- One or both parents, the child, or the State of Utah may file a case in court requesting a judgment of paternity.
Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP)
A Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP) allows unmarried parents to legally declare the paternity of their child. The VDP must be filed with the Department of Health. Once it is filed, it creates a legal parent-child relationship between the biological father and the child. VDP forms are available from:
- The hospital or birthing facility when the child is born
- The Office of Vital Records and Statistics
- All local health departments
If there is a question about whether a man is the biological father of the child, the parties should not file the VDP. Once the VDP is signed, either parent can change their mind ("rescind") within 60 days by contacting the State Office of Vital Records and Statistics.
If the child is under the age of 6, the child's last name can be changed on the birth certificate as part of the VDP process. Otherwise, a court order may be needed to change the child's last name.
More information is available on the ORS Paternity Establishment web page and in Voluntary Declaration of Paternity: What You Should Know.
Administrative paternity order from ORS
Utah law gives ORS the power to establish paternity for children and to establish child support orders administratively (outside of court). While the ORS order is not an order of the court, it has the same effect as a court order. As part of its process, ORS can order the parties to have genetic testing in order to establish paternity.
An administrative order from ORS does not talk about child custody or parent time. Those issues must be established through the court. Use OCAP, the Online Court Assistance Program, to prepare the papers for this kind of case. Choose the Custody, Support, or Paternity option.
More information about the administrative order process is available on the ORS Paternity Establishment web page.
Asking the court to establish paternity
Either the mother or the father may file a court case asking a judge to find that a man is the father of a child. As part of that case, the judge will also make orders about child support, child custody and parent-time.
- Establishing Court-Ordered Paternity: A Guide for Unmarried Parents - PDF
- Como establecer la paternidad por orden judicial: Una guía para padres solteros -
Use OCAP, the Online Court Assistance Program, to prepare the papers for this kind of case. Choose the option called Custody and Support, or Paternity - Petitioner.
The other parent can use OCAP to respond to the request to establish paternity. Choose the option called Custody and Support, or Paternity Answer - Respondent.
OCAP does not have an option for situations in which both parents are living together and raising their children together, or in which one parent is deceased. In these situations, talk to an attorney. See the Finding Legal Help web page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help.
See the Parentage web page for more information.
Genetic testing can determine whether or not a man is the father of a child. A court order for genetic testing is not required if both parties will voluntarily take the test.
If one party will not voluntarily take the test or allow the child to be tested, the other party can ask the court to order the other party to take the test by filing a Motion for Genetic Testing.
Cases in which paternity could be an issue include divorce, parentage (specifically, paternity) or judicial recognition of a relationship as a marriage.
For more information and forms, see the Motion for Genetic Testing web page
The initial costs for court-ordered testing are usually paid by the person asking for the test. However, the court can order either party to pay for the test or order the parties to split the costs. The parties can also decide between themselves who will pay.
Testing an unborn child
A judge cannot order genetic testing on an unborn child. A judge can order the test be conducted after the child is born.
Testing more than one man
If there are two or more men who might be the father, the court can order that the men be tested either concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (first one, then another and so on until they are all tested).
If the father has died or is otherwise not available to be tested
In the event the man is not available for testing, the court may order that a relative of his submit a DNA specimen for testing.
The person requesting the test must show that there is a very good reason for this order and that the circumstances are extraordinary.
Changes to the birth certificate
A court order can talk about the addition or removal of a parent's name from the minor child's birth certificate. For example, if a father's name was not added to the child's birth certificate at birth, but the father is determined to be the biological and legal father in the parentage case, the court order can state that the father's name should be added to the child's birth certificate.
Parties may also ask to change the minor's legal name by including a statement in the petition (or counter petition) and decree indicating that the name is being changed. The party should include the child's current full legal name and the new complete legal name that will be used after the parentage decree is granted. If parties can't agree about what the child's name should be, the judge will make a decision about what is in the child's best interest.
OCAP can include these requests in your papers.
Once an order is signed by the judge you can provide a certified copy of the order to Utah Vital Records and Statistics and complete their process for getting an Amended Birth Certificate. More information required by the Utah Office of Vital Records and Statistics to make changes to birth certificates is found on that agency's website.