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Not all child custody matters involve divorcing parents

Thousands of couples across the country and here in Utah have children together without being married. If the relationship ends, dealing with child custody issues can quickly become complicated. Just because a man is listed on the birth certificate, it does not mean that he has any parental rights or responsibilities when it comes to his child.

In order to obtain a court order for custody and child support, paternity will need to be established first. If both parents executed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP), along with the birth certificate, this constitutes a legal acknowledgement that the man listed on the birth certificate is the father. In the absence of a VDP, paternity will need to be established through a court proceeeding.

Once a Utah court declares that a man is the legal father of a child, the parties may address custody and support issues concerning the child. He acquires certain rights and responsibilities while the child receives certain benefits. As the child's legal father, custody and visitation arrangements can be made.

Because an unmarried father's legal connection to his or her child can be tenuous, understanding the process is critical. For an unmarried mother, establishing paternity is the first step in obtaining financial support for the couple's child. When the courts make decisions regarding child custody and child support, it is their job to ensure that the best interests of the child are protected throughout the process. As would be the case in a divorce, the child involved will only benefit from having two loving parents in his or her life regardless of the status of the parents' relationship.

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