Salt Lake City, UT asked in Family Law for Utah

Q: I was not married, but we filed the Voluntary Dec. of Paternity. Do I have any visitation rights, before I go to court?

As I understand it, (but could be wrong), in Utah, a father in divorce proceedings has automatic, and enforceable (though minimal) visitation rights, without having to go to court and ask for them, based on the idea that marriage is cause to assume paternity. If he wants more than the minimum, he has to ask for it in court.

My ex and I were not married, but we completed the “Voluntary Declaration of Paternity” when our son was born. Based on the previous scenario, am I afforded the same basics?

Since a father‘s rights depend on paternity, it would stand to reason that a “declaration of paternity” is actually more relevant as proof of fatherhood, than a marriage license. Yet, everything I’ve read so far has told me that I have to first go to court and prove paternity, before I have the right to ask for my rights. If that’s true, is completing a “VDP” before a separation occurs just a pointless redundancy? If I’m misunderstanding things, please correct me. Thank you, very much.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Lane Wood
Lane Wood
  • Licensed in Utah

A: The answer to your question is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no. Do you have parental rights before going to court? Yes, you absolutely do based upon the voluntary declaration of paternity. Does that mean you have visitation (Utah calls this parent-time) rights? Yes and no. You absolutely have rights to see your child, but you do not have an automatic and enforceable parent-time schedule. That is true whether or not you were married.

Whether married or not, in the instance of a separation or divorce, the parties need to establish a Court order before they have an enforceable parent-time schedule. In Court, there is a minimum schedule depending on the age of the child. We also have an extended parent-time schedule. However, neither of these are automatically enforceable without a Court order.

Mike Branum agrees with this answer

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