“Paternity” is the term used to refer to the legal father of a child. Under Minnesota law, once paternity is established, the legal father has the right to ask the Court for an Order regarding Custody and Parenting Time. In addition, the legal father will be obligated to provide financial support for the child in the form of child support. In Minnesota, there are two (2) ways to establish paternity if the parents are not married.
First, a father may sign a document called a Recognition of Parentage (ROP). This document is typically signed at the hospital when the child is born. Essentially, this document acts as a voluntary statement that you are the biological father of the child. This document also allows the father’s name to be on the child’s birth certificate. Importantly, the Recognition of Parentage does not establish custody or parenting time rights. Once the document is signed, it must be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
If the Recognition of Parentage is not signed, paternity may also be established by a Court Order. To start a paternity proceeding, a party (father, mother, or the county attorney) will file papers with the Court. During this court proceeding, the Court will decide if the alleged father is or is not the legal father of the child. Typically, this will involve genetic testing, especially if the parties do not agree on who the father is.
Married couples do not have to worry about establishing paternity because Minnesota law presumes that a husband is the legal father of a child born to his wife during the marriage.