Unmarried Parents and Child Custody in Utah: What Do State Laws Say?

Even though children born outside of marriage and births to unmarried parents no longer raises eyebrows in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in Utah, having a child with a person you are not married to does create quite a few legal challenges that must be taken into account.

Today, our Salt Lake City child custody attorney from the Ault Firm is going to address some of the most burning questions asked by unmarried parents facing legal difficulties when it comes to child support, custody and parent visitation.

Fact:births to unmarried parents account for more than 40 percent of all births in the U.S., while Utah has a somewhat lower rate, 19 percent of all births in the state.

Establishing paternity is vital

If a child is born to an unmarried couple, a father can be legally named as the father of the child only after establishing paternity. Our best child custody attorneys in Salt Lake City explain that in married parents, paternity is established automatically (though there can be exceptions).

The mother of the child born to a man outside of marriage will not be able to request a child support order until paternity has been legally established.

Note: the child whose paternity has not been established and documented will have no legal claim on his or her father’s inheritance rights or financial benefits.

If paternity of the child is not disputed or questioned, the father can gain rights to his child by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in Utah. This form is usually offered to the father after the baby is born in the hospital. This is a voluntary way of establishing paternity in Utah and does not require the man to take a paternity test.

If the mother or father have doubts over the paternity of their child or anyone contests paternity, the man who is thought to be or claims to be the father must take a paternity test. If the child’s biological connection is linked to the man, paternity will be legally established.

Unmarried mother has the natural (primary) right to custody

One of the biggest legal challenges faced by the father of the child whose paternity has not been established is that he may not be able to gain custody rights. Under federal and state laws in Utah, when the child is born to unmarried parents, the mother will gain the natural or primary right to custody.

The father whose name was not included on the birth certificate, meanwhile, has no right to custody until paternity is legally established. In case any legal action arises between the unmarried parents – be it child custody, parent visitation, or other – the father of the child will have no legal claim whatsoever in courts unless paternity has been established at or after birth.

Father gains primary custody of a child if…

If the unmarried mother abandons, neglects or abuses her child or if her parental rights are legally disputed, the father can gain primary custody of that child only if paternity has been legally established. The mother, meanwhile, will have her custody rights removed if the court proves any of the above-mentioned wrongdoings to be true. If no father has established paternity, the child will be placed in foster case.

As you can see, there are quite a few legal challenges that unmarried parents may face. If you have any questions about your custody rights as an unmarried parent, consult a Salt Lake City child custody attorney right away.

Contact the Ault Firm to get a free consultation today. Call our offices at 801-539-9000 or complete this contact form.