How To Establish Parentage, or Paternity, in Utah

Establishing parentage in Utah is easiest for married couples but can also be done for unmarried couples. The complexity of the process depends on how cooperative the parties involved are. 

In some cases, court-ordered genetic testing may be necessary to establish parentage. However, in most cases, both parents will simply sign a form declaring parentage without any type of dispute or complicated process.

What does it mean to establish parentage in Utah?

Establishing parentage, in the legal sense, means to become recognized as the parent of a child. Usually, this refers specifically to establishing biological parentage and, even more specifically, establishing paternity. 

In the majority of cases, parentage is debated in terms of paternity. The mother of a child is usually clearly a parent as a result of them giving birth in front of witnesses, most often at a hospital. Issues related to paternity can be less clear. 

What are the reasons for establishing parentage of a child in Utah?

Establishing parentage can be important for a number of different reasons. Broadly, establishing parentage helps give a parent the legal rights and privileges that they are owed regarding a child. 

This can include ensuring a child gets their proper inheritance and linking the child to various benefits a parent is receiving, such as medical and life insurance as well as Social Security and veterans’ benefits. This linkage also allows the child to access important medical information from their family history that might otherwise be considered confidential.

Establishing parentage is even more important in the case of unmarried couples, divorced parents, and married parents who may strongly disagree on certain issues regarding how a child ought to be raised. If an individual wants custody or visitation rights over a child, they will generally need to establish parentage over that child. They will also need to establish parentage if they want any legal say in important decisions being made about a child’s life, such as their education and religious upbringing.

What are the ways to establish parentage in Utah? 

Establishing parentage will depend on a few factors, including whether a couple is married or unmarried. In either case, the individual who birthed a child is almost always firmly established as a legal and biological parent, although this could theoretically be disputed if one birthed their child away from medical experts.

Married couples

Establishing parentage over a child for a married couple is usually a straightforward, mostly automatic process. Both parents will fill out a form, and a child’s birth certificate will then show the child’s parents. 

At birth, the legal ties of both parents will usually be set. These can, however, be disputed if one believes they aren’t a parent but were noted as one. This is discussed further below.

Unmarried couples

The complexity of establishing parentage for unmarried couples can greatly depend on how cooperative both parents are. First, the process is essentially the same for the birthing parent either way. Legal ties are set at birth. However, establishing the other parent’s connection to the child is less automatic.

One of the easiest ways to establish parentage is through a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. This allows unmarried parents, without the use of a court order, to declare the paternity of a child. If either biological parent is under the age of 18, the declaration must also be signed by a parent or guardian. 

Once signed, either party has 60 days to rescind the declaration through the State Office of Vital Records. Before you can sign such a declaration, you generally need to view a parenting training video, which is called The Power of Two in Utah. If one doubts they are a child’s parent, they should not sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity.

Can the court get involved?

The court can interfere and force the establishment of parentage, such as in child custody or support payment disputes. Some court orders that can establish parentage include divorce decrees and some juvenile court orders. If a parent is resistant to this process and parentage is unclear, they may be legally ordered to get a genetic test to prove or disprove they are a child’s biological parent.

Is there any other way to establish parentage?

Similar in its ability to establish parentage but of moderately less authority is the Office of Recovery Services (ORS). ORS has an administrative process that can establish parentage, but this is separate from the court system, meaning it doesn’t address custody or visitation issues. Their orders can sometimes be overridden by the court, which can matter because the ORS will often provide genetic testing for free, but court-ordered testing may not be free.

How to dispute parentage via genetic testing

If you believe you aren’t the parent of a child but have been set as one, you should contest the claim as soon as possible. Vital records can be amended, but you will need an affidavit or court order in order to get that amendment. Birth records are much easier to amend when the holder of the certificate is still alive, although modification is possible posthumously with a court order.

The easiest way to definitively prove whether you are or aren’t a parent is through genetic testing. If you’re involved in a legal dispute where the fact that you aren’t the parent of the child is important, you should usually seek this testing immediately. As with all legal matters, it’s better to address the matter promptly.  


Working With Fathers to Explain the Importance of Establishing Paternity. National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.
Paternity: FAQs. Utah Department of Health & Human Services.
Correct a Record. Utah County Health Department.

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