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Your Rights as an Unwed Father

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned pregnancies. While many couples are overjoyed at the prospect of adding to their family, many unwed fathers have questions about their rights regarding their unborn child. Though the biological father may be entitled to custody and visitation after the child is born, does the father have a say in matters such as adoption and abortion? Can a man voluntarily terminate his parental rights if he does not want to pay child support? These are all common questions men have when they find out they’re going to be fathers.

Establishing Paternity:

No matter your situation, if you are an unwed father in Utah, you will need to establish paternity after the child is born. If you are certain that you are the father, you can voluntarily sign a declaration of paternity. You can also establish paternity by signing the birth certificate. If you have already signed the birth certificate, you do not need to file a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. If you have doubts about whether or not you’re the father, you need to take a paternity test. Do not sign a birth certificate if you don’t believe you’re the father. However, just signing the Declaration of Paternity and/or being on the Birth Certificate does not give you any legal rights to the minor child other than the State of Utah can garnish your wages for the purpose of Child Support and Medical Support.  In Utah, you have to actually file with the court to adjudicate yourself as the Father and ascertain orders to obtain any Legal and/or Physical Custody.  Until you do this the Mother can deny you the right to see and/or participate in your child’s life.  

Adoption:

As the biological father, you do not have the right to force the mother to put the child up for adoption. However, if the mother does not want to be involved in the child’s life, you may adopt the child. If the mother of your unborn child is planning on putting the child up for adoption, you need to register as a putative father as soon as possible. A putative father is a man who has fathered a child with a woman whom he is not married to. Utah’s putative father registry exists to prevent women from placing children up for adoption without the father’s knowledge.

Abortion:

Legally speaking, a biological father does not have a say in the mother’s decision to terminate the pregnancy. Also, women are not under any legal obligation to inform the biological father of the pregnancy, or of her decision to terminate the pregnancy. This is true regardless of the relationship between the biological father and the biological mother. Even if a couple is married, the husband would not have access to his wife’s medical records unless she gives him written permission to access them. 

What If She Lied About Using Birth Control?

Reproductive coercion occurs when a person of any gender tampers with birth control methods with the intent of causing pregnancy. Though reproductive coercion is a form of abuse, it is very difficult for victims to prove. And tragically, even if it is expressly proven, tampering with birth control methods is not illegal. Therefore, even if a woman lied to you about taking oral contraceptives or intentionally sabotaged birth control devices, you will still be legally obligated to provide for the child via child support.

Can I Voluntarily Terminate Parental Rights?

As the biological father of a child, you are not legally obligated to be in the child’s life. But you are obligated to pay child support unless you terminate parental rights. Yes, you can petition to voluntarily terminate parental rights. However, these petitions are typically only granted in specific circumstances. If the biological mother remarries and the step parent wishes to adopt the child, a judge may grant your request to voluntarily relinquish parental rights. Or, if the judge feels that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate your parental rights. Most judges feel as though it is in the best interest of the child to receive child support from the non-custodial parent. Therefore, when there is no step parent to take your place, a judge would likely only grant your petition in extraordinary circumstances.

Your Rights as a Parent:

When most people hear “family law,” they think of divorce. But CoilLaw represents people with many different family law cases, including Paternity. If you have questions about your rights as a father, CoilLaw is here for you. Contact CoilLaw today to find out how we can help answer your questions.

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