Custody and Paternity


Establishing & Enforcing Custody and Paternity in Utah | Topham Family Law, PLLC

We work tirelessly to advocate for your parental rights so you can raise your children in a fit and healthy home. Nothing is more important than your children's physical, emotional, and financial stability. Whether you need to establish paternity, establish custody and support orders, or modify orders you already had in place, we are here to assist you every step of the way. Our goal is to take some of the anxiety out of this process and help you achieve the custody and visitation you know is best for your child.

What is a Paternity Decree?

A Paternity Decree defines the relationship between the parties and their children when the parents were never married. It is similar to a divorce decree, but this type of action is limited to child related issues. This type of decree can establish the parentage of a child, establish custody orders, child support orders, and parent-time orders.

Why Establishing Paternity is Important

In addition to offering additional knowledge, and a certain level of comfort for both parents, establishing legal paternity is important for a variety of other reasons. If two parents are not married, it is a good idea to establish legal paternity even if they are dating or living together at the time. The following are some of the most important reasons why you should seek to establish paternity in Utah.

  • Establish Parentage: If the mother of a child does not list a father on the birth certificate, a father can file a parentage action to have the court establish that he is the father of the child and correct the birth certificate. The father will also be able to establish custody, visitation and support at the same time.
  • Establish Custody Orders: If both parents are listed on the birth certificate and a father has signed a voluntary declaration of paternity, paternity is established, but custody remains undetermined. In this case, either parent may seek a Paternity Decree to establish custody. Without this decree, either parent has an equal right to have custody of the child. Unfortunately, that also means that either parent could unilaterally prevent the other parent from having any access to the child. When a paternity decree is established, both parties are protected and orders are established to determine legal and physical custody, child support, parent-time rights, and sharing of expenses for the child. The decree also gives a parent the ability to enforce their rights when the other parent attempts to make unilateral decisions regarding the child.
  • Establish Child Support Orders: Quite often, unmarried parents work together financially supporting their child, even when they are not in a relationship. But when one parent stops supporting the child, without a child support order, the other parent has no ability to force the non-paying parent to pony up their share of the child's expenses. A Paternity Decree establishes an order for child support and is enforceable through the Court and collectable through the Office of Recovery Services. Sometimes, a parent will start a child support action through the Office of Recovery Services, but that order does not establish custody, parent- time, or address any other non-financial issue that may need to be addressed between parents. A parent will have to file a paternity action to establish orders related to issues that are not financial in nature.
  • Establishing Visitation Orders – Establishing custody orders mentioned above will be closely related to a visitation order. Visitation orders cover the specifics of how and when each parent will exercise their parenting time. This will include things like how normal parenting time works, how parenting time on holidays works, who will transport the child to and from locations, and much more. When a custody order is created, the visitation order will be a significant part of that process.

Modifying an existing order

Once an order regarding children is established, it is not necessarily set in stone. Circumstances change and what was once in the best interest of the child, may not be in the best interest of the child now. Likewise, what the parties were previously earning may have changed and the support that was ordered is no longer appropriate. In these cases, you can petition the court to modify the previous orders.

Enforcing an Order

In most cases, once an order is established, the parents are able to follow it without any trouble. When one parent does not follow the order, however, it can be problematic. We can work with you, the courts, and law enforcement to ensure all custody agreements are followed exactly how they should be. We can even help to recover lost parenting time, child support, or other things that your ex failed to provide in violation of an order.

Child Protective Order

If the other parent presents a danger to your children, it is important to act quickly to get a protective order. A protective order will prevent the other parent from having contact with the children until the court makes an official ruling. If you believe your child is being physically or sexually abused by the other parent, please contact us right away to get the protection your child needs.

Why choose us?

Any issue dealing with your children can cause a great deal of stress and be emotionally exhausting. We are here to assist you every step of the way so you can unburden yourself from that stress. We will explain, in plain English, the process; the different terms the court uses to address issues with your children such as legal custody, physical custody, parenting plans, parent-time arrangements, parental responsibility; and we will work with you to determine what works best for both you and your children. Whenever possible, we aim for amicable agreements as they are often easier on young kids and teenagers. However, when necessary we will aggressively protect their best interests in court.

Contact Topham Family Law

If you need legal help in any of the above practice areas, we are here for you. Please contact us to set up a consultation to have your questions answered by an experienced attorney serving people throughout Tooele, Salt Lake, Weber, Davis and Utah County.

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