Minnesota paternity: the determination of legal fatherhood

Establishing paternity also grants certain legal rights to the parents and child.

The paternity action - a court proceeding to determine the legal father of a child - is important to our society since almost half of all children are born to single mothers. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, 40.6 percent of all U.S births were to unmarried women in 2013, as compared to 18.4 percent in 1980

Many reasons exist for legally establishing a child's father. In Minnesota, when a child is born outside of a marriage, the mother has all custodial rights until and unless paternity is determined. Unless the mother consents and facilitates contact with the father, he is unable to establish a relationship with the child. On the other hand, without official paternity, the mother cannot get an order for child support.

When paternity is established, the child receives certain property rights related to the parental relationship with the father such as the right to inherit property from him or eligibility for benefits like Social Security or insurance.

In Minnesota, if the child is born during a marriage, the husband is the legal father, unless paternity of another man is legally established.

Outside of marriage, a single father's name placed on the birth certificate is not enough to legally make him the father. He can become a legal father by co-signing with the mother a legal document called a Recognition of Parentage or ROP and properly filing it with the state. When paternity is established this way, the ROP is enough to make a claim for child support, but it is not sufficient without a court paternity order for the father to have the right to custody or parenting time, known as visitation.

When the parents are not in a cooperative relationship, if a man wants to assert his rights to fatherhood or if a woman wants to establish paternity (often to seek child support), either of them may file a paternity action in state trial court. In that lawsuit, both parties may submit relevant evidence and genetic testing may be ordered by the court.

If the court determines that the man is the father of the child, an order will be issued establishing paternity. In that order, the judge may also include provisions for child support, physical and legal custody, and visitation.

This article is a quick overview of Minnesota paternity laws, which are complex and detailed. Any mother or father seeking to establish paternity, or man who wants to deny an assertion of paternity, should seek legal counsel from an experienced Minnesota family lawyer in order to completely understand the legal rights involved and what options are available.

With offices in Lake Elmo and Lake Elmo, the lawyers of Coodin & Overson, PLLP, represent men and women in paternity matters as well as other family law matters.

Keywords: paternity, parent, father, mother, child, Minnesota, legal fatherhood, child support, rights, ROP, Recognition of Parentage, court, lawsuit