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Office of Recovery Services

Paternity Establishment
Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is Paternity?
  2. Why is it so important to establish paternity?
  3. How can unmarried parents establish paternity?
  4. How do I know if I should sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
  5. Is there a deadline for signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form?
  6. What if I change my mind after signing the form?
  7. Is there a fee for filing or getting copies of the form?
  8. Where can I get a copy of my Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form?
  9. What does paternity establishment have to do with child support?
  10. What is an administrative order?
  11. How does the administrative process work to establish paternity and child support?
  12. What about custody and visitation?
  13. If someone says you are the father of a child, how can you make sure that you really are?
  14. Do persons under age 18 have to worry about paternity and child support?
  15. How can I get help with child support, custody and visitation?
  16. Where can I call for more information?

What is Paternity?

Paternity means fatherhood. When a married woman gives birth, her husband is presumed to be the father of the child. When a child is born outside of marriage, the father of the child does not automatically have the same rights and responsibilities as the father of a child born in marriage. 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.

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Why is it important to establish paternity?

Paternity establishment is important for many reasons. Some include:

    SUPPORT

    The law requires both parents to support their child. This is true even when parents are not married to each other.

    MEDICAL

    A child may need to know if she/he has inherited any special health problems. In case a child or parent needs a donor for a transplant, knowing who the members of the immediate family are is important.

    CITIZENSHIP

    Parents provide the child with citizenship and/or nationality. If one parent was not born in the United States, his/her place of origin may provide important rights to the child.

    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 father has the same rights as a father of a child in a marriage. These include such rights as the ability to address custody and visitation issues with the court, and to give other input into decisions regarding the child.

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How can unmarried parents establish paternity?

There are two ways:

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How do I know if I should sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

A mother or father of a child born outside of marriage is not required to sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. If the Declaration is signed, it is legally binding on the mother and the father. A Voluntary Declaration should not be signed if:

IMPORTANT: BEFORE SIGNING THE VOLUNTARY DECLARATION FORM, BOTH PARENTS MUST LISTEN TO AN ORAL PRESENTATION: DIAL 1-800-662-8585, THEN PRESS 2, 6.

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Is there a deadline for signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form?

No. Although the forms are provided at the time of a child's birth for parents to sign, the forms may be signed at any time after the birth of a child. However, as long as both parents voluntarily agree to sign the form, there are benefits to signing at the time of the birth of the child. If the forms are filled out in the hospital or other facility where the birth occurred, the staff of the facility will file the completed form with the birth certificate information. Also, the only way to get the father's name added to the original birth certificate when the parents are unmarried is to have the form transmitted with the birth certificate for registration. If parents obtain the form at a later date, they must file the form with the Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics.

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What if I change my mind after signing the form?

You have up to 60 days or until the date a child support order is established, whichever is earlier, to rescind (or nullify) the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form. Rescissions are handled by the Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics, and must be in the format outlined in state rules (Link http://health.utah.gov/vitalrecords/). When one parent requests a rescission, the other parent will be notified by mail at the address listed on the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form. 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 Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form 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 father 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, Vital Records and Statistics at (801) 538-6105.

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Is there a fee for filing or getting copies of the form?

If the affidavit is completed in the hospital with the birth certificate, there is no fee for filing it.  If the affidavit is completed within one year of the child's date of birth, there is no fee for filing it, but there is a $15.00 search fee for finding the birth certificate, which includes one certified copy of the amended birth certificate. If it is filed after one year, there is a $20.00 fee for registration of the affidavit, which includes one certified copy of the amended certificate.  Additional copies on the same day are $8.00 each.

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Where can I get a copy of the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form?

Copies of the form are provided by health care facilities to unmarried parents when a child is born, and are also available at the Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics and all local health departments. It is important that the form is typewritten or carefully printed, except for signatures. If the forms are not neat or cannot be read, they will be refused for filing and must be completed again.

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What does paternity establishment have to do with child support?

When paternity is established, by the proper filing of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form, by a court order or by an administrative order, the father has a legal obligation to support his child. 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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What is an administrative 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 it to legally establish paternity for children and to establish child support orders. The administrative process does not involve the judicial court system but the order has the same effect as a judicial court order that establishes paternity and child support.

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How does the administrative process work to establish paternity and child support?

Parents involved in an administrative action with the Office of Recovery Services are served with a Notice of Agency Action. The Notice of Agency Action lists specific information about the case, proposed child support amounts and information about medical insurance coverage. The Notice of Agency Action  also lists the options available to each parent after they receive the Notice.

If paternity needs to be established, the Notice of Agency Action will either contain an appointment date for genetic tests, or instructions for how the parent can request genetic tests from the Office of Recovery Services. If either parent is not certain that the father listed in the Notice is in fact the biological father of the child, it is very important to conduct genetic testing, BEFORE paternity is legally established. In most circumstances, genetic testing will be provided to you at no charge when you have an open case with the Office of Recovery Services.  

After the appropriate time frame for the parents to exercise the options in the Notice of Agency Action has passed, an order will be issued that legally establishes paternity, a child support obligation, and a provision for medical insurance coverage.

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What about custody and visitation?

Custody and visitation issues should be addressed in a court order. This must be done even if paternity was established by a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity or an administrative order.  Both parents have the right to ask the court for custody. If parents cannot agree on visitation issues, the court will decide these issues as well. Federal law does not permit the Office of Recovery Services to use federal child support funding for purposes of establishing or enforcing custody and visitation issues.

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If someone says you are the father of a child, how can you make sure that you really are?

You should not sign the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form if you have any doubts about whether you are the father of a child. There are very accurate genetic tests available which will absolutely exclude you if you are not the father. 

If you have an open child support case with the Office of Recovery Services, you may request genetic testing (usually at no charge) at any time before paternity and a child support order are established.

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

Yes. Minors 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 could be ordered to pay a monthly child support amount. Child Support Guideline worksheets are available at all Office of Recovery Services offices and all Utah Court Clerk offices. 

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How can I get help with child support, custody and visitation issues?

In Utah, the Office of Recovery Services' Child Support Services and Children in Care programs pursue paternity establishment and child support collection in two situations:

ORS cannot get involved with custody and visitation issues. To have these issues addressed, you must hire a private attorney or represent yourself in a court proceeding.

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Where to call for information?

About ORS child support and paternity establishment:
(801) 536-8500.

For information about the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity process, dial one of the above numbers, then PRESS 2, 6.

About birth certificates, the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity process, or the rescission process:
Department of Health, Vital Records and Statistics: (801) 538-6105.

About custody and visitation or other legal assistance:
LegalMatch (866) 678-5342 http://utahbar.legalmatch.com/
Legal Aid: (801) 328-8849
Legal Services (Salt Lake County): (801) 328-8891
Utah Bar Association: (801) 531-9077

World Wide Web links:
Legal Service: http://www.uls.state.ut.us
Utah Bar Association: http://www.utahbar.org/public

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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