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A Minor Becoming a Parent

A minor becoming a parent? What rights do young men and women have when they are under the age of 18? What if two 17-year olds--who are not married--conceive a baby?

Under Utah Code 78B-6-123, a minor parent has the power to (a) consent to adoption of the minor's child; and (b) relinquish the minor's control or custody of the child for adoption. So, a minor birth mother may consent to her child being adopted even if her parents want her to keep and raise the child.

An unmarried birth mother has legal parental rights protected by the U.S. and Utah Constitutions by virtue of the fact that she has carried the child through pregnancy and undergone delivery. On the other hand, an unmarried birth father has inchoate constitutional rights. He must take specific steps to assert, perfect and protect his constitutional parental rights, i.e., filing a paternity suit in court, etc. He has a deadline as well: He must jump through all the legal hoops (U.C.A. 78B-6-120) prior to the time the birth mother relinquishes her rights or consents to adoption, which may take place as early as 24 hours after the child's birth.

If the unmarried birth mother decides to keep the child, then she may ask the Utah Office of Recovery Services (ORS) for help with getting child support set up.

In short, when it comes to conceiving a baby, minors have entered the adult world and may act as adults in asserting paternity, seeking child support, or consenting to adoption.

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