Attorney Todd Dwire speaking with staff member in conference room

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Minnesota paternity: the legal issue of fatherhood

Minnesota paternity laws provide two main ways to establish the fatherhood of a child.

The parent-child relationship is arguably the most important family tie either the parent or the son or daughter will ever have. The guidance, care, emotional and financial support a mother or father provides is the child’s foundation in the tender years, in adolescence and beyond. Accordingly, determining the paternity of a child – meaning the identity of his or her biological or legal father – is an important area of Minnesota law.

Benefits of paternity

Legal establishment of paternity makes the child eligible to inherit from the father and possibly for insurance and public benefits through the father, like Social Security benefits. In addition, the child could have access to important family medical information and would have the potential of developing loving relationships with paternal relatives like grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and more.

The Minnesota ROP

Probably the most common scenario in which paternity is at issue is when a baby is born to an unmarried mother. In this situation, the father and mother can cosign an official Recognition of Parentage statement, called an ROP for short, in which they swear to be the parents. Either can revoke the ROP within 60 days.

The legal procedures and deadlines related to Minnesota ROPs are complicated and signing impacts important rights and obligations, so it is a good idea to consult an experienced paternity lawyer for assistance and guidance with an ROP.

The legal effect of an ROP may be different for parents under 18 or if the mother is married to someone other than the man who signs the ROP.

An ROP can be the basis of a court order for child support, including assistance with medical and child care expenses.

Minnesota state court paternity proceedings

Sometimes an unmarried mother finds herself facing a situation wherein the father does not acknowledge that the child is his or the biological father could be more than one man. Similarly, a married woman may have had a relationship with a man who was not her husband.

Minnesota law establishes a paternity proceeding in state court in which a judge will decide who the legal father of a child is. The court may order genetic testing of the people involved. After paternity is determined, the judge can also order that the father pay child support, sometimes retroactively even back to the costs of childbirth.

In addition, the father in a paternity proceeding can seek sole or joint physical or legal custody as well as parenting time, known traditionally as visitation. In all matters of child custody or visitation, the judge must keep the best interest of the child as the guiding principal in the decision. Minnesota law requires that the judge explicitly consider each factor in a long list to determine the best interest of the child.

Legal counsel crucial

A knowledgeable Minnesota family law attorney can provide guidance, information and representation in a paternity matter. A mother may want to establish paternity in order to seek child support. A man may want to establish fatherhood to gain the right to custody of or visitation with his son or daughter. Sometimes a man may need a skilled lawyer to oppose a paternity action when he does not believe that he is the biological father of a child.

This article only begins to touch on Minnesota paternity issues; legal counsel can give advice and information about any particular situation related to parenthood or paternity.

Keywords: Minnesota, paternity, fatherhood, child, father, support, ROP, Recognition of Parentage, parent, lawyer, court, judge, genetic testing, custody