Paternity in Utah

A Paternity Petition is required to establish the rights and responsibilities of both parents where one or more children were born to the parents without the benefit of marriage. Like a divorce case, the filing of, or defending against a Paternity Petition is a time where clear thinking is required, as the decision made during a Paternity Petition case will effect the relationship between the parents, as well I as the relationship of each parent with his or her children for years to come.

It is at this critical juncture, that the advise of an attorney can be most beneficial to a client. I have experience in Paternity Petitions and other family law matters, and can help you navigate the court process.

Each month I receive a number of calls from potential clients seeking assistance with a paternity matter. From these calls the the follow ing list of "Frequently Asked Questions" to help you decide which attorney would be the best fit to assist you in this trying time:

QUESTION # 1 : How are attorneys paid for their services?

ANSWER # 1 : In family cases, such as a paternity case, attorneys charge an up-front "retainer." The amount of the retainer varies depending on the difficulty or the matter and generally runs from $2,000.00 to $5,000.00.

QUESTION # 2: How is the retainer money used?

ANSWER # 2: Retainer monies are used to pay for litigation costs, such as court tiling fees and document service fees, as well as for the attorney's time spend working on your case. For example, hourly charges range from $150.00 per hour to $225.00 per hour. 

QUESTION # 3: If I am seeking to establish a Paternity Order, what are the steps in the paternity process?

ANSWER #3: The steps in a paternity case can be boiled down to the following: (a) meeting with you, the client; (b) preparation of the Paternity Petition; (c) service of the Paternity Petition; (d) answer to the Paternity Petition (by the other party); (e) conducting of discovery; (f) pretrial; and (g) trial before the assigned judge.

Initial Client Meeting: This is the initial in-person contact between you, the client, and your attorney. During this meeting, your attorney will collect the necessary information from you items such as custody, child support. visitation and tax deductions, which are required to draft the Paternity Petition. It is often helpful to bring documents such as year-to-date pay stubs and recent tax returns with you to this initial meeting.

Preparation of the Petition: A Paternity Petition is basically a list of requests or demands. All issues related to the establishment of parenthood, such as child custody, child support and visitation are included in separate paragraphs of the document. It is also good to remember that a placement of a father's name on a birth certificate, or even an administrative child support order from the Office of Recovery Services, does not establish the named father as the legal parent of the child or children. Only the Court has the authority to enter such an order. The filing fee associated with the Paternity Petition is $360.00.

Service of the Complaint: Court rules require the party initiating a paternity action, or the Petitioner, serve a copy of the Paternity Petition on the other party, or the Respondent. This service is accomplished by a Court approved Constable. The service fee is approximately $100.00.

Answer to Complaint: The Respondent has at least 20 days from the date of service to file an answer to the Paternity Petition. This answer must include a response to each individual paragraph in the Petition.

Temporary Orders: In a paternity matter, either party can request from the Judge or Commissioner assigned to your case "temporary relief." This "temporary relief "request is done in the form of a signed "Motion for Temporary Orders," which contains information similar to the Paternity Petition. It takes approximately three to six weeks after the Motion for Temporary Orders is filed for a hearing to be held by the Court.

Discovery: Discovery is the collection of information from the other party to the divorce as well as from third parties. These requests must be made in writing and the party seeking the information must allow at least 30 clays for responses to the requested information to be provided.

Pretrial: Once the case is ready for trial, either party may seek a pretrial with the assigned Court Commissioner of Judge. A hearing date and time will be set by the Court and both parties will be required to attend. At the pretrial, the Judge or Commissioner will attempt to resolve any outstanding disputes. If these disputes cannot be resolved, a list of disputed issues is prepared and sent to the Trial Judge for final resolution at Trial.

Trial: All unresolved issues certified from the Pretrial are resolved by the assigned Judge after hearing the testimony of the parties and other witnesses.

Mediation: Mediation is a process that is required by many of the Judges in Utah, I can also assist you in finding a qualified mediator for your case.