Much like a divorce decree, a paternity decree sets out the rights and obligations of parents to their children. The difference is that the parents in this type of situation were never married.
A paternity decree is established in a parentage case. While most people assume that this type of case only proves who the father of a child is, it actually does much more than that for unmarried couples in Utah.
1. Child Custody
A paternity decree sets out what type of custody each parent is awarded (i.e. sole, joint, or split). It will also describe how shared time will work as well. If one parent is not granted any custody or only partial custody, the paternity decree will provide information about their visitation rights. Parent relocation stipulations may also be included as part of the child custody portion of the order.
2. Child Support
The paternity decree will also set out the required child support amount or any other agreement that the parents have reached regarding support. It will also address other financial aspects of supporting the child, such as medical expenses, health insurance, tax exemptions, and how a parent will collect (or pay) support.
The child support calculation is based, in part, on the child custody arrangement as well. That means that you will have to establish custody before determining child support, or at the same time.
A paternity decree certainly can develop paternity rights if those issues are uncertain. In many situations, the court will simply order that a potential father and the child undergo genetic testing to determine whether establishing legal paternity is appropriate.
Couples who are married automatically have rights to children born in that marriage. However, when a couple is not married, the rights of the father need to be legally established. Once paternity is established by law, then both the mother and the father will have equal rights when it comes to caring for their child.
4. Parenting Plan
Another vital aspect of a paternity decree is the establishment of a parenting plan. This plan will set out how parents will work together to raise their children. It could include things like who will take the child to doctor’s appointments or after school activities, but it could also decide on less specific things. In addition, it describes how the couple will resolve disputes if they should arise over the course of the duration of the plan (i.e. counseling, arbitration, or mediation). The goal of a parenting plan is to reduce stress and anxiety for both the parents and the children involved.
Obtaining a paternity decree as an unmarried couple can be very helpful because it will specifically describe the relationship between the couple as it relates to their child. It can also address potential disputes long before they happen, giving you some measure of peace of mind. Topham Family Law can help. Learn more by contacting our team.