Many people in Salt Lake City assume that anyone who needs the expertise of a Utah child custody lawyer must be going through a divorce. That isn’t necessarily the case — unmarried parents who decide to split up face unique legal challenges when it comes to custody and child support.
As child custody attorneys, we believe it’s important for unmarried couples to understand the difficult circumstances they may have to cope with in the event of a separation. Here’s a look at the Utah laws that apply to this situation.
The Mother Has a Natural Right to Custody
Mothers are automatically recognized as parents in the state of Utah. Unmarried women who give birth are presumed to have a natural or primary right to custody and full legal control over their children.
Unmarried men who become parents aren’t so lucky – even if the mother is unfit and even if paternity of a child isn’t in question. Before a man is considered to be a father in Utah, he must take action to legally establish parentage. Not doing so means he has no right to custody.
In addition, child custody attorneys say that having the father establish legal paternity may be essential for the mother. Until this step is taken, no child support order will be put in place.
Fathers Must Establish Legal Paternity
An unmarried father can legally establish parentage shortly after the birth of his child by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form. VDP forms are available at hospitals and birthing facilities, all local health departments and at the Office of Vital Records and Statistics in Salt Lake City.
This option, however, is only viable when there’s no doubt about who fathered a child. The VDP form can only be completed with the consent of the mother, so if she isn’t agreeable, legal paternity must be established another way.
To gain rights to his child, a man can turn to the Utah courts. Genetic testing may be required, and he may be subjected to a home study to confirm his suitability as a parent in cases where he is looking to adopt. All of this takes time – and if the mother is found to be unfit to parent, the child will be placed in foster care until paternity has been legally established.
Speak With an Experienced Utah Child Custody Lawyer Today
Are you facing a paternity or child custody issue? The legal team at Solon Law is ready to help, and the sooner you call on our exceptionally skilled child custody lawyers, the sooner we can work to protect your parental rights.
Turn to Solon Law, and you’ll have an experienced attorney on your side, a caring professional who is well familiar with the legal challenges that unmarried parents face in Utah. To discuss how we can help resolve your situation, contact our Salt Lake City office and schedule a free child custody lawyer consultation today.