Paternity Issues

With married parents, both parents are automatically assumed and recognized to be the biological and legal parents of the child. However, the same is not necessarily true for unmarried parents.  While the child’s biological mother is automatically recognized as the child’s legal mother by virtue of the child’s birth, the biological father does not automatically receive the same recognition. Under Minnesota law, unmarried, biological fathers are not recognized as the child’s legal father unless or until someone takes additional legal steps to establish paternity. Being named on the child’s birth certificate alone is not enough to establish a legal father under Minnesota law.

“Paternity” is the term used to refer to the legal father of a child under Minnesota law. Paternity can be established either by court order or voluntarily by signing a Recognition of Parentage (ROP).  Either parent may initiate a paternity action, and if the child is receiving public assistance, the County may also initiate a paternity action. If you do not know if you signed a ROP, contact the Minnesota Department of Health.

Once paternity is established, the legal father has an obligation to financially support the child and he may ask the Court for an order establishing custody and parenting time. Additionally, once paternity is established, there are other rights and benefits available to the legal father and child, including the father’s ability to provide insurance coverage for the child, the child may have an interest in the legal father’s life insurance, Social Security or Veterans’s benefits, and both the legal father and child may benefit from statutory inheritance rights. 

Sometimes parties are unable to agree about who the child’s biological father is.  In these situations, a court involvement is necessary and the court may require genetic or DNA testing to prove paternity. Genetic testing typically requires a swab collection from the mother, father and child.

It’s important to know your own rights.  The best way to be prepared and to gather information about the options available to you and your child is to consult with a knowledgeable attorney. If you think that you might need assistance in establishing paternity or in responding to a pending paternity action, please contact Rogness & Field for further information.