If you are an unmarried parent and you are about to begin a case regarding your minor child, you may be wondering what type of case you need to file, and what does each type of case involve.

During this process there are probably three main words you keep coming across that are sometimes used interchangeably, but you should understand each word’s individual definition and use – these include Custody, Parentage, and Paternity.

Also, you should know what type of case you are filing with the court when you submit the papers with the clerk of court at the courthouse.

Let’s start with definitions:

Parentage refers to your origin or decent and includes both parents – mother and father.

On the other hand, paternity refers to the father, just as maternity refers to mother.  A parentage action may establish paternity and maternity – the father and mother of a child.

While a paternity action may establish the paternity, or the father, of the child.

And thirdly, custody is a term used to define the legal relationship between the parent(s) and child.

There are two types of custody in Utah – physical custody and legal custody – for more information on these two types please see our blog and video on Utah Child Custody Explained.

Now how are these terms used in filing cases in Utah?

It is usually the father that wants to, or must, establish he is the father of the child if the parties are not married.

If the parents are married, it is presumed the husband and wife are the parents of the minor child.

For unmarried parents, there are three different ways you can establish the paternity, or father, of a child:

(1)  Through an administrative paternity order (by an administrative body like the Office of Recovery Services).

(2)  Through a voluntary declaration of paternity (form that may be filled out).

(3)  Through a judicial paternity order (by the court).

An administrative order may include the following: establish paternity, order the father’s name be placed on the child’s birth certificate, establish a child support amount, and order medical financial support.

An administrative order CANNOT establish or enforce custody or parent time visitation with the minor child.  If you would like a custody or parent time schedule you will need a judicial court order.

A judicial paternity order from the court may include everything listed above that is included in an administrative order, but may also include: changing the child’s name, custody of the child, a parent time visitation schedule and parenting plan.

So if you need custody, visitation or a parenting plan you will need a court order.

Knowing this, what type of case will you file with the court if you are proceeding through the court system?

There are two civil case types in Utah that deal with children of unmarried parents, these are titled Custody and Support (CS) and Paternity (PA).

Custody and Support is a “domestic case filed to resolve custody and support issues.”  Paternity is a “domestic case in which the parentage, typically the paternity, of a child is established.”

A list of all civil case type codes can be found on the Utah Courts website.  If you already have paternity established through an administrative order, or voluntary declaration, you may only need to file a Custody and Support (CS) action, because paternity has already been established.

If you have further questions about your case please feel free to leave comments or questions below, or schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys using our contact form for specific answers regarding your case.

Utah Family Law Blog