Paternity in legal terms means fatherhood. When a child is born to a couple who are not married to each other, the father of the child does not automatically have the same rights and responsibilities as a father who is married to the mother until paternity is established. These rights and responsibilities include custody, parent-time, and the obligation to provide financial support (child support). Father's rights can be particularly difficult to establish event though there are statutory prohibitions on discrimination. The divorce attorneys at Miller Family Law have represented both mothers and fathers in issues related to paternity.
Paternity can be established through one of three ways:
- 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 (i.e., through genetic testing).
- One or both parents, the child, or the State of Utah may file a case in court requesting a judgment of paternity.
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. Therefore, it is necessary for unmarried biological fathers to protect their own rights. They may or may not receive notice of an adoption. They must not wait if they wish to maintain their rights.
Unmarried biological mothers who desire to adopt must also understand the requirements of the process to avoid unnecessary complications and troubles. A failed adoption can cause heartache for all involved. A successful adoption can be joyful.
The adoption process generally begins with a petition for adoption in district court (unless there has been an open case in juvenile court terminating parental rights). Notice of the adoption must be given to: 1) anyone who has filed a petition for paternity; 2) any legal guardian or custodian; 3) your spouse, if applicable; 4) a parent listed on the birth certificate; and 5) a person who lives with the child and acts like the child’s parent.
You will generally have to get written consent from at least one person. A person may not give consent until the child is at least 24 hours old. Importantly, once signed, consent cannot be revoked. As you might expect, the list of who may have to consent is very similar to the list of those you must notify and include the following:
- the person being adopted if he or she is over 12 and mentally competent;
- the mother of a minor child if born outside of a marriage, and the father if:
- both parents of a minor child if born within a marriage;
- a court has ruled that he is the father,
- he has filed a voluntary declaration of paternity prior to the mother signing the consent of adoption,
- he has developed a strong relationship with the child and has taken some responsibility and/or shown some commitment for the child, or
- he has lived with the child for 6 months within the child’s first year and acted as though the child was his own.
- the adoption agency.