Family Law | Unmarried fathers’ rights: Establishing paternity in Minnesota

In order to be afforded their parental rights, unmarried fathers must establish paternity through a recognition of parentage or court order.

When children in Minnesota are born to married women, it is assumed that their spouses are the fathers. There is no such presumption, however, when children are born out of wedlock. In order to be legally viewed as a child's father and gain access to their father's rights, unmarried men must establish paternity through a recognition of parentage or a court order.

Establishing paternity is beneficial for fathers and children alike. The Minnesota Department of Human Services points out that taking this step legally recognizes a man as a child's father and affords him the right to seek custody and visitation. For children, establishing paternity allows them the opportunity to know both sides of their family. Additionally, it enables them to receive support and benefits from their mothers and their fathers.

Recognition of parentage

In situations when there is no dispute who a child's father is, parents may establish paternity through a recognition of parentage. This form must be signed by both parents. Once it has been filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Services' Office of Vital Records, it becomes valid. The man's name will be added to the child's birth certificate and he is legally recognized as the father.

It is important for unwed fathers to keep in mind that signing a recognition of parentage means giving up the right to have genetic testing performed before being declared a child's legal father. Furthermore, it removes their right to a trial to establish parentage. Parents can undue a recognition of parentage by revoking it within 60 days. After the 60 days have passed, the state's DHS points out that parents have one year in which to take legal action to undue a recognition.

Court-ordered paternity

When unmarried fathers are unable to come together with their children's mothers to establish paternity, this action may be accomplished through a court order. Paternity cases may be initiated by the father, the mother or the county attorney. In such situations, hearings are held to determine if an alleged father is the legal father, according to the Minnesota Judicial Branch. Depending on the circumstances, the court may order a man and child to undergo genetic testing in order to prove whether the man is the child's biological father.

Obtaining legal assistance

For unwed fathers in Minnesota, taking responsibility and being there for their children may not be as easy as it would seem. Therefore, men who have had children out of wedlock may find it helpful to consult with a lawyer. A legal representative may help them understand their rights and responsibilities, as well as guide them through the process of being legally recognized as their children's fathers.